Ebola is a particularly deadly disease that has already claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people in the world, mostly in West African countries. While a cure for the illness has yet to be introduced, scientists in the United States have developed a potential inhalable vaccine that could pave the way for an effective treatment.

In a study featured in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland created a new aerosol vaccine against Ebola that is capable of activating immune cells in the respiratory system.

The scientists tested the new drug on a group of 12 rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), in which eight of the monkeys were vaccinated through aerosol, while four of them were given the drug through injection. They then injected the animals with the Ebola virus along with two other monkeys that were not vaccinated.

During the test, the two monkeys that did not receive the Ebola vaccine subsequently died, while the vaccinated ones remained in good health without showing any signs of the virus in their systems.

"The initial several decades of attempts to develop a vaccine against the Ebola virus were unsuccessful," UTMB virologist and study co-author Alexander Bukreyev said. "This is one of the few vaccines that work."

Despite the success of the aerosol vaccine on the rhesus macaques, there is no guarantee that the treatment will also be effective on humans exposed to the Ebola virus. An earlier Ebola medication developed by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals failed to keep patients healthy.

Tulane University virologist Dr. Daniel Bausch, who was not involved in the study, said that the creation of the inhalable Ebola vaccine may not be considered a breakthrough, but it does provide a positive development.

The new aerosol vaccine against Ebola can be administered even without the guidance of a medical professional. If the medication proves to be effective on humans, it will be significantly useful, especially in West African nations devastated by the disease outbreak where there are not enough nurses or doctors to treat the number of patients.

The study will now proceed with clinical trials of the inhalable Ebola vaccine on humans, which will be carried out by researchers at the NIH.

The University of Texas and National Institutes of Health study is featured in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Photo: NIAID | Flickr 

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