Ebola: An Update on the Fight Against the Virus February 16, 2015 By Caitlin Bradford Leave a Comment CDC Director Thomas Frieden exits an Ebola treatment center in Monrovia, Liberia. Courtesy of CDC Global. As a measles outbreak rolls across the United States, fears of Ebola have generally subsided. Although less attention has been given to the fight against the virus recently, novel efforts to advance public health and combat it are still occurring throughout the world and West Africa. Many organizations believe the best way to stop the virus is by developing a comprehensive vaccine that could keep aid workers and those who come in contact with the infected safe, especially in areas like Sierra Leone where infection rates have begun to increase for the first time in 2015. Ebola by the numbers Total cases: 22,092 Total deaths: 8,810 Total cases w/i Ebola region: 22,057 Total cases w/o Ebola region: 35 Source: World Health Organization There is a large clinical trial currently underway in Liberia that aims to evaluate the safety and efficacy of two experimental Ebola vaccines. The National Institute of Health reports that the trial is led by a new Liberia-U.S. clinical research partnership that is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and is open to volunteers in Liberia. This partnership, called the Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia, or PREVAIL, aims to enroll 27,000 healthy men and women who are 18 years of age or older. One of the vaccines being tested, cAd3-EBOZ, is a derivative of a chimpanzee cold virus and will hopefully protect against the Zaire strain of the virus, the same variant behind the most recent outbreak. The NIH published first phase data of this vaccine trial which includes results that show positive immune system responses. Specifically, the results show that the vaccine prompts immune responses to the outer coat of the Ebola virus. The other vaccine that is being tested, called VSV-ZEBOV, uses an animal virus that is known to primarily affect cattle as the delivery system. This vaccine is licensed to NewLink Genetics Corporation, and it was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Phase 1 of this vaccine trial provided important safety information and showed an immune response to the outer coat of Ebola virus. The findings of this trial have yet to be published. The current vaccine trial is seeking healthy adults, but also those in at-risk populations like healthcare workers and those who work with the dead. Participants in the study will randomly be assigned to one of the three groups. Volunteers will receive either the cAd3-EBOZ vaccine, the VSV-ZEBOV vaccine, or a saline injection for the placebo group. All of those taking part in the study will be informed on how to minimize the risk of becoming infected with the Ebola virus. The study is projected to last twelve months, in which participants will be contacted by the study staff one week after the injection, and then once every month for the remainder of the study. The number of Ebola cases in Liberia is declining. If these trials show positive results, they will help advance public health in the event of another outbreak and could help protect communities still affected by the virus. In Sierra Leone, however, the virus continues to spread, and there were more than 30 new cases confirmed in one week, according to a recent report from International S.O.S. It is believed that the majority of these cases were caused by a lack of proper precautions when dealing with those infected with Ebola. International S.O.S said unsafe burials, lack of security and patients refusing to cooperate have all played a role in the increase of cases, underlining the fact the proper preventative measures are key to stemming the spread of the virus. The Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015 is the largest in history. Cases of the virus continue to be reported in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. However, on a positive note, outside of West Africa, the virus has stopped spreading, as the World Health Organization reported in January that the outbreak in Mali has been contained. If you are considering traveling to an area affected by Ebola it is critical that you take necessary precautions to avoid contracting the virus. Schedule an appointment with a Passport Health travel health specialist to address your action plan for staying safe on your trip. Would you be willing to participate in an Ebola vaccine trial? Tell us your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.