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Researchers commence Ebola vaccine trials

Oxford University researchers have begun the first trials of an experimental preventive Ebola vaccine regimen developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.

The trials come as the ongoing Ebola epidemic is affecting a growing number of countries including Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and the United States – so far claiming more than 6000 lives.

Dr Matthew Snape of the Oxford Vaccine Group, who will lead the study team, said he hopes to have 72 healthy adults vaccinated by the end of January.

Oxfordshire locals aged between 18-50 are still being sourced for the trial. Those taking part will be asked to make a maximum of 12 visits to the Oxford Vaccine Group - part of the University of Oxford Department of Paediatrics - over the course of a year.

“The main aim is to understand the safety profile of the vaccines,” Snape said.

“The devastating Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to see hundreds of new cases each week and has placed huge burden on these countries' infrastructures.

“While public health measures are currently still the best way to bring the outbreak under control, if we have a safe and effective vaccine it could begin to have an impact later this year. That is the goal that is seeing manufacturers, public health bodies and research regulators come together to accelerate the first clinical trials of new Ebola vaccines.”

According to Oxford University the study involves a prime-boost vaccine regimen “in which patients are first given a prime to the immune system to stimulate an initial immune response, and then a boost intended to further enhance the level of the body's immune response over time”.

The vaccine regimen does not contain any replicating virus, so it is not possible to be infected with Ebola.

Further trials are slated to begin in the US and Africa early in 2016.

“The fact that there are at least three Ebola vaccines entering these early safety trials is good news,” said Snape.

“We are not playing first past the post here. Having multiple vaccines progressing through clinical trials increases the likelihood of vaccine manufacturers having the capacity to meet production demands should mass immunisation be required.

“The more vaccines and more manufacturers there are working on this, the better.”

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