Researchers believe they’re close to a durable vaccine for Ebola

25 Mar 2015

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A team of researchers may have discovered what could be a major breakthrough for the treatment and prevention of the deadly Ebola disease which continues to wreak havoc in western Africa.

Almost to the date of the first outbreak of Ebola in western Africa last year that has killed as many as 10,000 people, a team of researchers in the UK say their cytomegalovirus (CMV)-based vaccine could soon be used as a means of reducing the infection rate of Ebola at its source, those being, wild African apes.

According to EurekAlert, the research was undertaken across multiple different institutions and led by the University of Plymouth’s Dr Michael Jarvis who realised that if we are to limit the spread of the disease in future cases, giving this vaccine to apes will not only protect one of the species’ greatest biological threats, but also ensure that thousands of lives could be saved.

The vaccine they have developed is a cytomegalovirus (CMV)-based vaccine that has been found to provoke a significant immune response which will not only benefit the ape to which the vaccine has been given, but will also spread easily to nearby individuals, much like any virus.

‘A little skip’ on the journey to a full vaccine

However, the beneficial vaccine properties of the CMV vaccine will be passed on to nearby apes which could prove vital given the remote areas with which they live in which could be inaccessible to humans.

The team’s early findings appear to show that the vaccine is also able to last considerably longer than any tests before lasting up to 14 months in a mouse tested with the vaccine.

The next step for the team is to put its CMV vaccine through the macaque Ebola challenge model which is seen as the final step before it is considered safe for mass production which should be decided within the coming months.

"We must walk before we can run, but this study provided a little skip," said Dr Jarvis. “Given the impact of ebolavirus on African ape numbers in the wild, and the role of apes as a route of ebolavirus transmission to humans via the bush meat trade, such a vaccine would be a win-win for humans and wild apes alike."

Western lowland gorilla image via Shutterstock

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Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com