Monkeys infected with Ebola five weeks after they were given an experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) survived without developing any symptoms of the deadly virus, leading researchers to start human tests.
The findings, reported today in the journal Nature Medicine, follow by two days a World Health Organization statement that preventative treatments may be available as early as next month for health workers in West Africa, where the disease has killed more than 2,000 people. Testing that’s already started in volunteers will determine how safe the vaccine is, and if it can spur a strong enough immune response in humans to fight off the disease, the researchers said.
All of the animals injected with the vaccine survived Ebola while those that went unprotected died within 6 days, the report said. The vaccine developed by London-based Glaxo prompts an immune response using a single gene from Ebola that’s inserted into the body using a less dangerous virus.
This purpose of the study “is to determine if it is safe, and if it induces a response that you would predict would be protective,” said Anthony Fauci, at the National Institutes of Health, in a telephone interview.
Glaxo’s vaccine is the furthest along in trials among three or four in development, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. While a vaccine would help keep healthy people from getting the deadly disease, about 10 drugs are also being tested as possible cures people infected with the disease.
Among the treatments being pursued is ZMapp, a drug devolped by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. that was given to two Americans who contracted Ebola and later improved. Inserm, the French national health institute, is talking with Guinea health authorities about human trials of drugs from Fujifilm Holdings Corp. and Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp.
Widespread use of the vaccine would “still be a pretty long way off,” said Fauci, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “The epidemic is not going to be contained by what we are doing now.”