(RxWiki News) With more than 1,500 suspected deaths from Ebola virus disease in the recent West African outbreak, health officials are scrambling to test vaccines that could slow the spread of the virus.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and GlaxoSmithKline have co-developed a vaccine for Ebola, which the National Institutes of Health (NIH) approved for early testing next week.
In a recent NIH press release, officials noted the importance of developing and testing vaccines to combat the quickly spreading virus.
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“There is an urgent need for a protective Ebola vaccine, and it is important to establish that a vaccine is safe and spurs the immune system to react in a way necessary to protect against infection,” said NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, MD, in the press release. “The NIH is playing a key role in accelerating the development and testing of investigational Ebola vaccines.”
While the Ebola virus has spread quickly in West African countries Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, it does not pose a threat to the US, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The virus can cause the often fatal Ebola virus disease, which is marked by fever and internal bleeding.
The vaccine test is the first in a series of safety studies of Ebola vaccines. The NIH has approved faster safety studies to speed up the process of finding an effective vaccine in an effort to save lives in the outbreak.
CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, said a combination approach could slow the outbreak's progress.
“Tried and true public health interventions, strong supportive medical care and the rapid testing of Ebola vaccines and antiviral treatments can help to reduce suffering now and in the future,” he said in a press release.
The vaccine showed promise in early testing on primates, Dr. Fauci said. If it performs well in the first phase of the NIH test, it will have to undergo more trial phases before it can be approved.
“However, a vaccine will ultimately be an important tool in the prevention effort," Dr. Fauci said. "The launch of Phase 1 Ebola vaccine studies is the first step in a long process.”