Science & Tech

There could be a vaccine for Ebola

A new Ebola vaccine has been shown to have led to 100 per cent protection in human trials in Guinea, raising hopes that it could help bring a final end to the epidemic.

The success of the trial of the VSV-EBOV vaccine has been heralded by scientists and public health officials as a breakthrough. “We believe that the world is on the verge of an efficacious Ebola vaccine,” World Health Organisation vaccine expert Marie-Paule Kieny said at a press conference in Geneva yesterday.

The vaccine went through a remarkably swift trial beginning in March this year, administered to 4,000 people who had come into close contact with Ebola victims in the previous 10 days.

A further 3,500 volunteers were given the vaccine more than 10 days after coming into contact with victims. Among the first group, no instances of Ebola were found. Among the latter, just 16 people became infected with Ebola. The vaccine was developed by the Canadian government and licensed to NewLink Genetics and later Merck.

Further data will need to be collected from the trial, which could marginally affect the 100 per cent efficacy rate found in the preliminary results, published yesterday in The Lancet. But the success of the trial meant it was stopped on 26 July to be rolled out across Guinea. The trial will now eliminate the 10-day wait to administer the vaccine, and will also include children.

Dr Derek Gatherer, of Lancaster University, said: “This is best possible news in the fight against Ebola.”

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