Wednesday, November 19, 2003

human testing of Ebola vaccine begins ...

The WHO has confirmed there's an Ebola outbreak in the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) ... and since the outbreak is in an area near the border with Gabon, health officials there are on high alert. Last year, an Ebola outbreak in Gabon killed 53 people.

So a report that the National Institute of Health has begun human testing of an Ebola vaccine offers some measure of good news.
The experimental DNA vaccine is synthesized using modified, inactivated genes from the Ebola virus. Because it does not contain any infectious material from the Ebola virus, recipients cannot get the disease, said Dr. Gary Nabel, who directs the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in Bethesda, Maryland.

Researchers plan to test the vaccine on 27 people aged 18 to 44. They are expected to receive three injections of either the experimental vaccine or a placebo at the institute over a two-month period. Then they will be monitored for one year.
But they're having trouble getting people to volunteer for the trial. They only have two of the 27 volunteers they need.
"People freak out about Ebola," said Margaret McCluskey, the director of nursing at the NIH's vaccine research center ....
Uhhh ... yah!

One of the volunteers is a gardner who works in McCluskey's neighbourhood ... and another is a nurse at the NIH.

There's some really interesting info in this press release from the NIH.
A gap of two decades separated the first Ebola epidemic of 1976 and the next, which arose in 1995. In recent years, for reasons unknown, outbreaks of Ebola are occurring with increasing frequency.