New Ebola vaccine provides 100pc protection against virus

23 Dec 2016

Image: science photo/Shutterstock

In what could be described as an early Christmas miracle, researchers developing an experimental Ebola virus vaccine are reporting a 100pc protection rate.

While it may have fallen from the news cycle, the Ebola outbreak in west Africa that led to the deaths of thousands of people between 2013 and 2015 has not been forgotten in the affected countries.

While the number of reported cases has dropped since it reached a peak in August 2014 with up to 400 cases per week, the deadly virus will continue to wreak havoc in areas with little access to hygienic facilities.

But now, in what could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in medicine of the past few years, a team of researchers has published its findings into an experimental vaccine that has shown a 100pc success rate in preventing the disease.

During a clinical trial in Guinea in 2015, 11,841 people who did not have the virus were brought in to take part to see the effectiveness of this new drug called rVSV-ZEBOV.

Incredibly, of the 5,837 people who received the vaccine, no Ebola cases were recorded 10 days or more after vaccination.

By comparison, there were 23 cases 10 days or more after vaccination among those who did not receive the vaccine.

‘We will not be defenceless’

The trial was conducted using a so-called ‘ring vaccination’ approach that had previously been used to eradicate the smallpox disease.

When a new Ebola case was diagnosed, the research team traced all people who may have been in contact with that case within the previous three weeks.

The trial also shows that unvaccinated people in the rings were indirectly protected from Ebola virus using this approach, commonly referred to as herd immunity.

The research team has said that additional studies are ongoing to provide more data on the safety of the vaccine in children and other vulnerable populations such as people with HIV.

“While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during west Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenceless,” said the study’s lead author Dr Marie-Paule Kieny.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic