Merck and NewLink Genetics have developed a new Ebola vaccine that has recently proven 100 percent effective against the disease during drug trials that took place in Guinea. This is just one of the potential new medicines that could soon be available to treat populations of people prone to the deadly illness.
The VSV-ZEBOV vaccine is a live microorganism, which raised questions about the safety of the drug. Tests showed the immunization is roughly as safe as a typical flu vaccine. The drug was not provided to pregnant women or children during the study due to safety concerns.
The VSV-ZEBOV vaccine was tested on frontline workers in the battle against the disease as well as those who had come in contact with infected individuals, beginning in March 2015. The vaccine was tested on 1,200 health care workers, those involved in the burial of corpses and others in high-risk categories.
Many health officials believe that a range of different immunizations should be available to various populations, in an effort to maximize effectiveness of the drug. While live vaccines usually require just a single dose, those made with dead organisms often require multiple inoculations.
"There is a place for all of these different modes and it's important that development work on other vaccines continues," said Rebecca Grais, director of research at Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Epicentre, known in the U.S. as Doctors Without Borders.
The World Health Organization recently announced the world is now nearly able to protect populations from the scourge of Ebola. Thousands of people, mostly in western Africa, died in the outbreak that took place from 2014 to 2015.
Other pharmaceutical giants working on alternative vaccines to treat Ebola include GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and a partnership between Johnson and Johnson and Bavarian Nordic.
Trials for new Ebola vaccines will continue in Guinea as 2015 continues. Ironically, research to prevent malaria could be hindered as the area recovers from the disease. With fewer sick individuals, there is less chance to test new potential vaccines. Still, researchers may be able to test the new drugs on healthy people in order to record how immune systems respond to the treatments. Experiments might also be carried out on non-human primates.
A team of researchers at the University of Texas are currently investigating a potential vaccine that would be delivered via an inhaled spray. However, that research is far behind other potential immunizations.
"Too many people have been dying from this extremely deadly disease, and it has been very frustrating for health care workers to feel so powerless against it. More data is needed to tell us how efficacious this preventive tool actually is, but this is a unique breakthrough. For example, it is not clear how soon protection kicks in and how long it lasts. All this needs to be determined by more research and analysis," Medecins Sans Frontieres reports.
An interim review of the drug testing was published in the journal The Lancet.
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