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Researchers Successfully Test Ebola Vaccines

Work in primates points to possible weapon against human infection with deadly disease

MONDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have successfully tested several Ebola vaccines in monkeys and are now working to create the first human vaccine for one of the world's deadliest diseases.

"The biothreat posed by Ebola virus cannot be overlooked. We are seeing more and more naturally occurring human outbreaks of this deadly disease. With worldwide air travel and tourism, the virus can now be transported to and from remote regions of the world. And it has huge potential as a possible weapon of bioterrorism. We desperately need a protective vaccine," Dr. Anthony Sanchez, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a prepared statement.

He noted that it has been difficult to create a vaccine for Ebola, "because simple 'killed' viruses that just trigger an antibody response from the blood are not effective. For these viruses, we need to get a cell-mediated response, which involves our bodies producing killer T-cells before immunity is strong enough to prevent or clear an infection."

The team of American and Canadian scientists used several different recombinant DNA techniques to trigger a cell-mediated response and produce Ebola vaccines that are effective in monkeys. One of these vaccines will soon be tested on humans for the first time.

"Ebola virus infection of humans can be highly lethal, but monkeys rarely survive the infection and have been very useful as animal models. Ebola vaccine trials using primates have provided unambiguous results and have allowed the development of protective vaccines to progress rapidly," Sanchez said. "Successful human trials will mean that we can vaccinate health care workers and other key personnel during outbreaks of Ebola hemorrhagic fever, helping us to protect their lives and control the spread of the disease."

The research was to be presented Monday at a meeting of the Society for General Microbiology in Edinburgh, Scotland.

More information

For more on Ebola, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Society for General Microbiology, news release, March 30, 2008

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