Ebola: Getting Closer to Killing the Killer Virus

Ebola, or Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is caused by the genus of viruses known as ebolaviruses and originated in Africa. The current and ongoing epidemic has already taken over 10,000 lives and affected over 14,000 more. More cases are reported every week, and despite our best efforts the epidemic is hardly improving. Last week Guinea declared  Ebola a health emergency in five regions!

Health workers in isolation ward, southern Guinea (1 April)

Controlling the Epidemic

So far the most common method to control Ebola is to prevent the spread of it, but with it existing in third world countries with poor hygiene this proves very difficult. For areas that are new to the epidemic, stopping cultural practices even as simple as hugging has been difficult and so the spread of the virus continues. Luckily, the virus isn’t one of the most complicated so  the possibility is there for a vaccine. Due to its simplicity it is not likely to mutate and due to the urgency of the situation funding has been provided left right and center to accelerate the time-frame of producing a vaccine. this seems to be the only way to control and hopefully erase the disease in the long term. But for now it’s also about not spreading it further.

Finding a Vaccine

We are moving closer every day  to finding a successful vaccination to Ebola, and a study published in science on the 26th March shows us just how close we actually are.

While several Ebola vaccine platforms have been established only a few have been sent to clinical trial and the current research seems to be bringing us closer than we thought to ending this disease.

It is designed on a new and novel platform, led by expert in avian influenza and Ebola, Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a professor of patho-biological sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary medicine. It is a whole virus vaccine, presenting multiple viral proteins and the viral genetic material to the host immune system. A vaccine like this is advantageous as it allows the immune system to identify and attack multiple parts of the virus, as opposed to one. It is the science behind the smallpox, mumps, measles and many more  highly successful vaccinations.

The vaccine was  first developed in 2008 by Peter Halfmann.By identifying the reproduction gene VP30, which allows the viral  cells of Ebola to multiply he was able to isolate it and study it further, producing a vaccine which we could soon see going to a full clinical  trial. the success of this has been tested in Cynomolgus Macaques with the results proving the vaccine is effective in these Ebola susceptible non-human primates.

The model has worked and the next  stages are even harder, getting the funding and approval for a full scale clinical trial. Every day is bringing us a step closer to eradicating this viral epidemic.