Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Vaccine For Ebola Virus?

There was a time in my life (ya, it was high school) when I was really into level 4 pathogens. I mean, really, really into them. I would gobble up any book I could find on the subject and for a few moments I thought it might be more fun that paleo. Then I realized that the study of these viruses are typically to discover a "cure" and to me, as harsh as it might seem, we need these viruses (and I am not always a huge fan of the general human population as it is). I think of them as mother nature’s way of trying to curb our worlds population, which is already somewhat out of hand. Not trying to be cold hearted or mean, it’s just a fact. And if I ever catch the plague and die, I will realize that this is just the way it is.

Anyway....this leads me to the topic of this blog posting, a story that caught my eye the other day. A cure for Ebola? One of the most gnarly and harsh pathogens we have out there, is it a good idea to have a "vaccine" that we inject people with so they can work in "hot zones." Sounds like the set up for your typical zombie movie (think
21 Days Later or I am Legend). I think it is just a mater of time before we manipulate viruses to much and it all backfires on us (more sci-fi fun from The Stand, The Andromeda Strain, Outbreak, ect…I can’t remember them all right now). Time for another extinction event?

by Terra Daily Staff Writers

London, UK (SPX) Mar 31, 2008

"One of the world's deadliest diseases, caused by the Ebola virus, may finally be preventable thanks to US and Canadian researchers, who have successfully tested several Ebola vaccines in primates and are now looking to adapt them for human use....

So far, there have been over 1500 cases of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in humans. Illness starts abruptly and symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, weakness, joint and muscle aches, diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach pain. A rash, red eyes and bleeding may also occur. Ebola haemorrhagic fever can have a mortality rate of around 90% in humans.

Because Ebola virus is so dangerous, producing and testing a vaccine is extremely challenging for the scientists. One significant factor slowing down progress has been that there are only a very limited number of high containment facilities with staff capable and authorised to conduct the research.

"Ebola virus is a Biosafety Level 4 threat, along with many other haemorrhagic fever viruses", says Dr Sanchez. "As well as the difficulty in getting the right staff and facilities, vaccines for viruses like Ebola, Marburg and Lassa fever have been difficult to produce 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 researchers have now used several different recombinant DNA techniques, which have allowed them to trigger a cell-mediated response and produce a vaccine that is effective in non-human primates. One of the candidate vaccines is about to be tested on people for the first time, after entering Phase 1 clinical trials in autumn 2006.

"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 nonhuman primates have provided unambiguous results and have allowed the development of protective vaccines to progress rapidly", says Dr Sanchez. "Successful human trials will mean that we can vaccinate healthcare workers and other key personnel during outbreaks of Ebola haemorrhagic fever, helping us to protect their lives and control the spread of the disease"...."

Read the entire article here [link]


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