THE first safety trial of an experimental preventative Ebola vaccine is under way at the University of Oxford.
The Oxford Vaccine Group, part of the University of Oxford Department of Paediatrics, aims to have vaccinated 72 healthy adult volunteers by the end of this month.
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Developers of the drug, the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, have now accelerated it due to the continued spread of Ebola in West Africa.
Since its outbreak the killer disease has claimed more than 8,000 lives across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Dr Matthew Snape, from the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: “We aim to immunise all participants within a month; the main aim is to understand the safety profile of the vaccines.
“The devastating Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to see hundreds of new cases each week and has placed a huge burden on these countries’ infrastructures.
“While public health measures are currently still the best way to bring the outbreak under control, if we have a safe and effective vaccine it could begin to have an impact later this year.
“That is the goal that is seeing manufacturers, public health bodies and research regulators come together to accelerate the first clinical trials of new Ebola vaccines.”
Pre-clinical studies have demonstrated that, given two months apart, the drug can provide complete protection from death due to the Kikwit Zaire strain of Ebola, which is similar to the virus causing the current outbreak.
The experimental vaccine does not contain infectious Ebola virus material and will not cause any of the volunteers, aged between 18 and 50, to be infected.
This is the second safety trial of an Ebola vaccine to be carried out at the university. In September a separate team in the Jenner Institute began a safety trial of a different Ebola vaccine.
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