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Human testing approved for experimental Ebola vaccine, trials to start in September

Vaccine will not serve as a cure for the infected but has has overwhelming success immunizing healthy chimpanzees.
By Matt Bradwell   |   Sept. 2, 2014 at 10:07 AM

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BETHESDA, Md., Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Healthy volunteers from around the world will willingly infect themselves with the Ebola virus as human trials are set to begin for a potential vaccine.

Similar to an everyday flu shot, the experimental vaccine infects the healthy patient with a single Ebola virus protein to generate their immune system's natural ability to develop a tolerance.

The vaccine will first be tested on three volunteers in Gambia, then, if proven safe, trials will expand to a small group of adults between 18 and 50 years old. In the United States, 20 volunteers will be injected with the potential vaccine at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Md.

Approval for the vaccine's testing is being fast-tracked by global health organizations as the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history continues to claim lives. Over 1,400 people in West Africa have been killed since the outbreak in December 2013.

"The tragic events unfolding in Africa demand an urgent response," Professor Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, said in a statement released by the vaccine's co-developer GlaxoSmithKline.

"In recent years, similar investigational vaccines have safely immunized infants and adults against a range of diseases including malaria, HIV and Hepatitis C. We, and all our partners on this project, are optimistic that this candidate vaccine may prove useful against Ebola."

"This is an extraordinary effort of multiple groups working together to bring a promising early stage candidate Ebola vaccine to field tests in west Africa in record time," echoed Professor Myron Levine, director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine Center for Vaccine Development.

"On short notice, the project partners have contributed enormous energy, time and resources to respond to the Ebola disease calamity. If the vaccine trials begin according to schedule, a new paradigm will have been established whereby multiple agencies mobilize to address a public health threat by accelerating the preliminary evaluation of a promising potential public health tool."

While early trials show an overwhelmingly high success rate in chimpanzees, researchers and the global community are holding their breath until the trials prove successful.

"I have been fooled enough in my many years of experience," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN.

"You really can't predict what you will see [in humans]."

Follow @mckb26 and @UPI on Twitter.
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