We are here. Researchers have finally developed an Ebola virus vaccine that is able to provide 100-percent protection against one particularly deadly strain of the disease based on final field tests on thousands of people in West Africa.
Though the vaccine may not have arrived to stop the 2014 outbreak that began in Guinea, it could be vital to prevent further epidemics. Public health experts have already stockpiled 300,000 doses of the drug for the next emergency.
According to Science Alert, the vaccine is known as the rVSV-EBOV and the vaccine prevented the development of Ebola in everyone it was given to during its field test. Now its makers need the regulatory approval for the drug so it can be more widely used.
Lead researcher Marie-Paule Kieny from the World Health Organization told Donald McNeil Jr. at the New York Times that we will not be defenceless when the next outbreak hits.
"The world can't afford the confusion and human disaster that came with the last epidemic," Kieny added.
According to the New York Times, occasional new cases of Ebola are still being reported with Guinea, where researchers trailled a technique called "ring vaccination." This means as soon as someone contracts the disease, the vaccine is given to those they've come into close contact with.
None of the 5,837 people who were given the vaccine had developed Ebola after 10 days, the study found. In contrast there were 23 new Ebola cases among the several thousands of people who didn't get vaccinated.
According to Science Alert, this is a hugely-promising result. However we can't completely rid of Ebola just yet. Though the rVSV-EBOV works against Zaire ebolavirus, the subtype of Ebola responsible for most human infections, it doesn't work against the four other subtypes.
The drugs also led to an unwelcome side effects, including joint pains and headaches. While these may be okay during an outbreak, it's going to put off the general population from getting vaccinated in healthier times.
The vaccine is made up of the vesicular stomatitis virus, which harms cattle but doesn't make humans sick, an an Ebola virus surface protein that prompts the human body to produce antibodies.
Now there's a new study underway to investigate its effects on children and vulnerable subjects, such as those with HIV.
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