US/World

Did Scientists Just Create a Vaccine for Ebola?

Transmission electron micrograph of Ebola virus.
Transmission electron micrograph of Ebola virus. CDC

Scientists may have just begun the last chapter in the fight against the deadly disease Ebola.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study was able to prevent infection of the disease in monkeys. The research team, which included researchers from the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., and Kentucky Bioprocessing LLC., developed a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies that are made of identical immune cells, which have, in turn, all been created as clones of one parent cell.

Scientists gave the monoclonal antibodies to the macaque monkeys in order to prevent lethal infection. Then, an hour later, the monkeys were given the Ebola virus. All of the monkeys survived. The monkeys also had a high rate of survival if they were given the antibodies 48 hours before they were infected, with two-thirds of the monkeys protected from infection.

"It is rare that an antiviral compound prevents Ebola virus infection with limited to no morbidity in treated animals at any point of treatment following infection by this lethal virus," one researcher affiliated with the study, Gene Olinger, said in a statement. "Until recently, attempts to utilize antibodies to provide protection against Ebola virus have been met with failure. The level of protection against disease that we saw with MB-003 was impressive."

Researchers say that, if the vaccine proves effective in humans, it would be quite economical. Previous studies looked at the effect of the medication in mice. The cocktail is plant-based and was produced in a tobacco plant system, and can be made in about two weeks so researchers would be easily able to contain new threats and outbreaks.

Researchers will still be performing tests to determine the true therapeutic power of the medical cocktail.

There were two Ebola outbreaks during this summer alone in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The disease was first identified nearly 40 years ago in 1976, but since then, researchers have not come any closer to understanding how the first outbreak occurred and how they have begun since then.

No cure currently exists for the Ebola virus, which is transmitted through contact with the blood, secretions, or objects of an infected person. It currently has about a 90 percent fatality rate.

Symptoms of Ebola include fever, headaches, vomiting, internal and external bleeding.

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