Canada’s government will donate doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to the World Health Organization amid a global race to combat the virus that has killed more than a 1,000 people in West Africa.
The experimental vaccine called VSV-EBOV was developed by the National Microbiology Laboratory, the government said in a statement today. It will offer between 800 to 1,000 doses to the WHO while keeping a small supply in case it’s needed in Canada.
Developers of unproven Ebola drugs and vaccines yesterday received backing from a panel of medical ethicists to deploy the products against the worst outbreak of the disease on record. Plans are being made to start trials of two vaccines including VSV-EBOV by the end of September, Marie-Paule Kieny, the World Health Organization’s assistant director-general for health systems and innovation, told reporters in Geneva.
“We are fortunate that a number of these new products — vaccines and medicines also — have shown enough potential for efficacy” in animal studies, Kieny said. “It really gives hope that they would be efficacious in humans. Even though we don’t have anything proven, we are in a much better position than we were a few years ago.”
There is no cure for Ebola and about 60 percent of patients have died in the current outbreak. The disease is normally treated by keeping patients hydrated, replacing lost blood and using antibiotics to fight off opportunistic infections. The hope is that a patient’s immune system will eventually fight off the virus’s aggressive attack.
Ebola has killed 1,013 of 1,848 people afflicted in four West African nations, making it the worst outbreak since the virus was first identified in 1976, according to the WHO.
An official with the Economic Community of West African States died with Ebola in Lagos, Nigeria, becoming the third victim in Africa’s biggest city, according to a statement on the bloc’s website.
Jatto Asihu Abdulqudir, a 36-year-old protocol assistant at Ecowas, had been in quarantine after helping Liberian Patrick Sawyer get to a regional meeting, according to the statement. Sawyer died of Ebola on July 25, five days after showing symptoms of the virus at the Lagos airport in the country’s first reported case of the disease. A nurse who came into contact with Sawyer has also died. The disease is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids.
Finding doses of potential treatments poses an immediate challenge after one drugmaker, Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., said this week that it’s already exhausted its supply.
ZMapp, Mapp’s experimental antibody therapy, has been used to treat two Americans who are improving. San Diego-based Mapp and its partners are working with the U.S. government to quickly increase production, the company has said.
While VSV-EBOV hasn’t been tested on humans, it protected 100 percent of monkeys in a study, according to NewLink Genetics Corp., the Ames, Iowa-based company that’s developing the vaccine. NewLink said last week that it received a letter contract for $1 million from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency for the trials.
The U.S. National Institute of Health is also developing a vaccine, which may begin enrollment in a early-stage human testing by this fall.
The Confederation of African Football has asked Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to play soccer matches scheduled until mid-September on neutral ground. That follows advice from the WHO against large gatherings of people that might help spread the disease.
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