Ebola: Human trials of potential vaccine begin in Liberia

JANUARY 7, 2015

A trial for a potential Ebola vaccine started on Wednesday at a Medecins Sans Frontieres centre in Liberia. The antiviral – Brincidofovir, is being tested on Ebola patients on a voluntary basis – those who do not consent to it continue to receive standard care.

The Oxford University scientists leading the research say initial results are expected in the next few months.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed over 8 000 lives mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

While a handful of experimental drugs, including Brincidofovir andFfavipiravir, have been given on an ad hoc, compassionate basis last year, none has yet been proven to work against the virus in scientific human trials.

A huge international effort - involving the World Health Organization (WHO), MSF, drug companies, the Wellcome Trust, and other global health organisations - aims to fast-track treatments that have been identified as potential options.

Scientists at Oxford say Brincidofovir was chosen because it is effective against Ebola-infected cells in laboratories, has been deemed safe in more than 1,000 patients in trials against other viruses and can be given conveniently as a tablet.

Researchers aim to recruit more than 100 people and will compare death rates at the centre before and after the trial.

The other antiviral drug, Favipiravir, being tested by the French National Institute of Health, is already used to treat influenza.

It is offered to all patients who receive care at the MSF treatment centre in Gueckedou, Guinea, and early results are expected in a few months' time.

Oxford University and the company Tekmira hope to establish a further study of a potential treatment which aims to interrupt the genetic code of the virus called TKM-Ebola.