An experimental Ebola vaccine tested on a group of American volunteers appears to be safe and triggers an immune response to the virus, scientists have found.
“The unprecedented scale of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has intensified efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the Bethesda, Maryland-based National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Fauci’s institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, and pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline developed the vaccine.
The clinical study of 20 volunteers, who are being monitored by medical investigators, was reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The vaccine was given to volunteers ages 18 to 50 and dosages differed. Researchers determined the vaccine’s effectiveness by testing volunteers’ blood for signs of antibodies, proteins that neutralize viruses.
Ten volunteers received the intramuscular injection at a lower dose and 10 at a higher one. Two weeks after vaccination, and again at four weeks, medical investigators tested volunteers’ blood for anti-Ebola antibodies.
All 20 volunteers developed a healthy supply of antibodies within four weeks, with those receiving the higher dose having the highest antibody levels, researchers found.
Dr. Bruce Hirsch, a specialist in infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, said he hopes scientists are on the right track. At least one study has shown that antibodies can, in some rare instances, act as turncoats in Ebola disease and amplify the infection.
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