Currently evaluated in Liberia, two Ebola vaccines appear safe and will move into final stage testing. One of the two drugs has been developed by GlaxoSmithKline PLC and the other by NewLink Genetics Corp.
According to the statement made by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Thursday March 26, both experimental vaccines “appear to be safe”. The trial is being conducted on more than 600 volunteers in Liberia and consists of administering one of the two drugs in a single injection, to evaluate the drug’s safety and efficacy. The trial is being sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of NIH.
The Ebola epidemic has begun one year ago and since then took the lives of more than 10,200 people. But a decline in victims has been noticed in the countries that have been most affected in this past year: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. This observation has sparked hopes that maybe the epidemic is close to an end.
As the two experimental vaccines have proven to be safe, the study can now move to the next level which involves additional volunteers being administered one of the two vaccines or a placebo. The aim is to verify whether the vaccines trigger an appropriate immune response – production of anti-Ebola antibodies.
There is no need to expose the participants to the virus which can often cause death. Testing the immune response is sufficient when analyzing the effectiveness of the two vaccines.
Anthony Fauci, the director of NIAID thanked the Liberian people who offered to participate in the trial. He added:
“Now we must move forward to adapt and expand the study so that ultimately we can determine whether these experimental vaccines can protect against Ebola virus disease and therefore be used in future Ebola outbreaks.”
The GSK vaccine trial began on Feb. 2 in Monrovia, Liberia. The trial was conducted in such a way that neither the scientists nor the participants know who was administered the vaccine and who received the placebo.
Volunteers can still enroll in the trial until the end of April. The aim is to gather 1,500 participants. The team is keen on having more female participants (which in the first group were only 16 percent) in order to eliminate the possibility of “gender-based differences in immune response or side effects”.
Image Source: Huffington Post