Monday 18 November 2019

Scientists develop '100pc effective' vaccine for Ebola

Experts hail breakthrough to conquer virus that killed 11,000

A health worker, right, cleans a man’s arm before injecting him with an experimental Ebola vaccine in Conakry, Guinea
A health worker, right, cleans a man’s arm before injecting him with an experimental Ebola vaccine in Conakry, Guinea

Sarah Knapton in London

The deadly Ebola virus which has claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people may finally have been conquered after scientists developed a vaccine which is 100pc effective.

Since the outbreak began in March 2014, researchers from across the globe have been working tirelessly to find a way to stop the deadly illness which can kill within days.

Yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that the first results from an ongoing trial in Guinea showed that the vaccine VSV-EBOV protected all 7,500 people who had been in close contact with Ebola patients.

Although trials are continuing, the WHO said the results were "extremely promising" while the findings were described as "remarkable" by the Wellcome Trust which partly funded the research.

The trial has been ongoing since March 23 and targeted family members, neighbours and co-workers of Ebola victims. None developed the disease, despite their close proximity to infected friends and relatives.

"This is an extremely promising development," said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation.

"The credit goes to the Guinean government, the people living in the communities and our partners in this project. An effective vaccine will be another very important tool for both current and future Ebola outbreaks."

More than 11,000 people have died since the outbreak began in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the US and Mali. The total number of reported cases is now more than 27,275.

Experts believe they have traced the crisis to a two-year-old boy playing with a fruit bat in the small village of Meliandou in Guinea, West Africa.

The toddler died of unidentified causes on December 3, 2013, followed a week later by his mother, then three-year-old sister and grandmother. Mourners at the grandmother's funeral then took the virus to other villages.

Health experts in the UK said the vaccine results were "suberb", "very exciting" and proved that huge breakthroughs could happen in the midst of tragic circumstances.

Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, one of the funders of the trial, said: "This partnership also shows that such critical work is possible in the midst of a terrible epidemic. It should change how the world responds to such emerging infectious disease threats."

The trial was carried out using ring vaccination, which was used in the past to eradicate smallpox. It works by creating a buffer of protection to prevent the spread of the disease, by vaccinating and monitoring the contacts, and contacts of contacts (the "ring"), of each newly diagnosed Ebola case.

Dr Ben Neuman, Lecturer in Virology at the University of Reading, UK, added: "This is big news - the most promising medical development so far in the ongoing race to shut down Ebola."

The trial has been run by the Guinean authorities, WHO, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Irish Independent

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