BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The fight against Ebola took center stage at an annual infectious disease conference held Friday morning in Baltimore. The conference comes just as the NIH in Bethesda begins to treat a nurse who contracted the disease in Sierra Leonne.
Derek Valcourt has more on the key role some Maryland doctors are playing in search for an Ebola vaccine.
The most promising vaccine was developed by top scientists in Maryland at the NIH in Bethesda. Now, University of Maryland doctors are helping and supervising testing for what many hope will one day stop the deadly virus in its tracks.
When doctors at the University of Maryland Center for Vaccine Development traveled to the West African county of Mali in October to begin human testing this possible Ebola vaccine, that county which neighbors Ebola ravaged Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leonne hadn’t yet seen a single Ebola case.
Fast forward two months later as Mali has already dealt with eight Ebola cases.
“All the more reason why people could see the importance of having a vaccine against Ebola,” UMD Vaccine Development’s Dr. Myron Levine said.
Dr. Levine is part of the team leading those vaccine trials in Africa.
Already, 91 people have received doses of the test vaccine, which in chimpanzees, produced at least short term immunity to the Ebola virus. At this stage, doctors are looking to see what, if any, side-effects the vaccine produces.
“What we can say is that so far there are no signals that would cause us any concern about using this vaccine,” Dr. Levine said.
But, much more testing has to be done. Phase two will involve at least a thousand test subjects and could begin early next year.
Vaccine quality control testing normally takes years to complete. This time it’s on a fast track.
Dr. Levine has studied vaccines for a long time. When asked if he’s ever seen a process move this quickly, he said no.
“No, no this is warp speed… only a situation like Ebola could allow this to happen, but what it shows is one can take this accordion and really compress it,” Dr. Levine said.
Time is the key with Ebola, already infecting nearly 20-thousand in West Africa, killing nearly a third.
The experts conducting those vaccine trials said they are expecting to have the results from the first phase by the end of this month.
Early testing on a second possible Ebola vaccine by drug manufacturer, Merck has been temporarily halted after some of the test subjects reported joint pain.
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