With last week’s publication of “Called for Life”, Dr. Brantly’s first-hand account about surviving Ebola, people are being reminded of the 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa. But even though it is referred to as the 2014 outbreak, it is still ongoing. In fact, the latest figures from the World Health Organization show that between July 12 -19, 2015, there were 26 new confirmed cases of Ebola in Guinea and Sierra Leone; the week before that, 30 cases. Since the beginning of the outbreak there have been a total of 27,741 cases and 11,284 deaths.
Countries have committed millions of dollars to prevent the spread of Ebola. Canada invested $110 million to fund health, humanitarian and security initiatives, $23.5 million of which is being used to support the research and development of the Canadian-made Ebola vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV-GP, which may be our best bet at stopping this virus.
rVSV-ZEBOV-GP was developed by researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg and is licensed to NewLink Genetics who teamed up with Merck in 2014 to mass produce the vaccine and bringing it to clinical trials. The vaccine may be able to prevent Ebola infection if used before or immediately after exposure and only requires a single dose.
Currently, this vaccine is being investigated in three large-scale clinical trials in West Africa. Interim results of the trial being led by the World Health Organization in Guinea will be available this summer which will indicate whether there is any benefit to continuing the trial or whether it should be stopped prematurely as was the case for the Phase 2 trial for Canadian-made Ebola drug, TKM-Ebola. To date, about 6,000 people have received the vaccine, but this may not be enough to demonstrate efficacy.
With an almost doubling of reported new cases in the past month, relief agencies are beginning to worry about resurgence. Here’s hoping the vaccine works.
Updated August 5, 2015:
On July 31, 2015, the World Health Organization announced that the interim results of the clinical trial of the Ebola vaccine, VSV-EBOV, show it to be 100% effective. The trial will continue in Guinea to determine whether the vaccine is effective in protecting the population through herd immunity.