Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise in Monkeys

Research is underway that is looking at Ebola whole virus vaccine, which has been shown to be effective in protecting monkeys from exposure to the Ebola virus. The vaccine was developed by a group of researchers that was led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka. Kawaoka is an expert on the avian influenza as well as other viruses such as Ebola, and he comes from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Yorhihiro Kawoka Health Ebola VirusThe difference between this Ebola vaccine and others that are out on the market is that this is a whole virus vaccine. Whole virus vaccines are made using an inactivated whole viruses, then the immune system is flooded with the Ebola viral proteins and genes, and this means all of the proteins and genes. When you have the inactivated whole virus, you are more likely to be fully protected from the virus since all of the genes and proteins are involved.

Peter Halfmann, who is one of the research scientists in the lab ran by Kawaoka first came up with the experimental platform used to create this vaccine in 2008. The experimental platform system can help researchers work with the viruses and can help researchers delete out specific genes found in the virus. In terms of the Ebola whole virus vaccine, the researchers were able to delete the VP30 gene, which is the gene that Ebola uses to reproduce in the host cells. There are only eight different genes in the the Ebola virus itself, but it can reproduce and replicate extensively once that VP30 is activated in the host.

What the researchers did was use the engineered monkey kidney cells to help single out the VP30 gene, then the researchers began studying the gene, and ended up figuring out how to make a whole virus vaccine off of that one gene. The virus was also inactivated using hydrogen peroxide, which helps keep the researchers safe while working on the possible vaccines.

While this vaccine has shown to be effective in monkeys, it has not yet made it to human testing yet, which is the next step in figuring out how effective the whole virus vaccine really is. The National Institutes of Health has also tested this vaccine in non-humans, which means that clinical trials might be going on soon for the whole virus vaccine. There have also been other Ebola vaccines produced using the experimental platform, and some of them are also open to clinical trials at the present time for humans. Kawaoka expressed concern about the other Ebola vaccines that are going through clinical trials right now, saying that some of them are not safe.

This wouldn’t be first time a whole virus vaccine was used to keep people protected from deadly viruses, since whole virus vaccines were used to get rid of HPV-related cervical cancer, hepatitis, and polio. Whole virus vaccines have all of the genetic materials and proteins in them, that is injected into the host immune system, and this is how the immune system creates a bigger and better response to the virus. Obviously, if you are using a vaccine with only half of the materials, then you could still become infected with the disease or virus through the materials that were not used in the vaccine.

It still might be a long time before the whole Ebola virus vaccine gets to the clinical trial phase, because clinical trials are quite expensive, and also require a lot of oversight. To get a vaccine like this in the clinical trials, it might take several years, plus all of the other phases the vaccine has to go through after the clinical trials. It will likely be at least another 5 years before the whole Ebola vaccine has a chance to come up for review with the FDA. More studies will likely be done before clinical trials on humans begin, which can help ensure the relative safety of the vaccine before it’s introduced into the human body.


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Jeanne Rose
Jeanne Rose lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been a freelance writer since 2010. She took Allied Health in vocational school where she earned her CNA/PCA, and worked in a hospital for 3 years. Jeanne enjoys writing about science, health, politics, business, and other topics as well.