The rampant outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has prompted pharmaceutical companies to speed up the development of medication to counter the virus and prevent the death toll from rising further. GlaxoSmithKline takes a giant step forward as it receives the green light to start clinical testing.

U.S. Officials announced Thursday that the first human trials for an Ebola vaccine will be starting next week. The first trial is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and has been fast-tracked due to the speed at which the virus is spreading. So far, 3,069 cases have been reported by the WHO predicts up to 20,000 people may be affected before the outbreak is controlled.

The vaccine that will be used for the clinical trials was developed by the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases alongside GSK. Tests will be done at the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center and will involve 20 healthy adults as participants.

For years, the NIAID has been hard at work developing a vaccine for Ebola, preparing for a scenario when the virus is ever used as a biological attack. However, development was slow because there was just not enough urgency, with previous outbreaks always too easily contained or too small to justify swift action.

With the rate the virus is spreading now, pharmaceutical companies and government agencies are finally feeling the urgency. Unfortunately, every variation of the Ebola vaccine that has ever been created has not been tested on humans.

To create the vaccine, a virus known as adenovirus was genetically combined with an Ebola virus piece, a protein that doesn't get people sick but is still recognized by the immune system as a threat. The resulting vaccine can protect against two strains of Ebola, one of which is currently responsible for the outbreak in West Africa, Zaire.

Alongside the announcement for the clinical trials, the WHO released a roadmap to fight the Ebola outbreak, stating that a coordinate effort involving international response is necessary to provide those at-risk and affected with the support they need.

But while the development of an effective Ebola virus is being rushed, the roadmap doesn't actually include its use just yet.

"Today we know the best way to prevent the spread of Ebola infection is through public health measures, including good infection control practices, isolation, contact tracing, quarantine, and provision of personal protective equipment," explained NIAID head Dr. Tony Fauci.

Vaccines will be integral to the prevention effort later on, but at this point, the first phase where most pharmaceutical companies are at now is merely the first step in a long process.

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