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Ebola: Are Treatments, Vaccines on the Horizon?

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The vaccine uses a weakened animal virus to deliver Ebola proteins to the person, triggering an immune response. The vaccine can't cause a person to become infected with Ebola, the NIH said.

NewLink spokesman Brian Wiley said Oct. 2 that other trials will open soon around the globe.

Profectus BioSciences vaccine: The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, will provide about $5.8 million, as well as expertise and technical assistance, to further develop the vaccine created by the Baltimore company.

The vaccine uses a weakened version of a virus called vesicular stomatitis virus, or VSV, that does not make people sick. A molecule from the surface of the Ebola virus is inserted into the weakened VSV. After the vaccine is injected, the VSV carries the Ebola molecule to cells, which then begin to pump it out, triggering an immune response. A single dose of the Profectus BioSciences vaccine has been shown to protect macaque monkeys against Ebola and Marburg viruses, both of which cause hemorrhagic fever.

BCX4430: This antiviral drug is effective against more than 20 viruses, including Ebola. It was developed by BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a company in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Under a 5-year contract awarded in September 2013 -- before the current Ebola outbreak -- the NIAID will provide up to $26.3 million to BioCryst to speed the development of BCX4430 for the treatment of Ebola, with the first safety trials expected to begin later this year or early next year, according to the NIH. In animal trials, the drug was 100% effective against Marburg, but it was somewhat less effective against Ebola, Jahrling said.

TKM-Ebola: This drug stops the Ebola virus from multiplying. So far, the only people who have received it are people infected with the Ebola virus, along with people who participated in a trial that was put on hold after 6 months.

In a Sept. 22 statement , Mark Murray, PhD, president and CEO of Tekmira Pharmaceuticals in Vancouver, said “several” Ebola patients had received his company’s drug under emergency protocols set up with the FDA and Health Canada. But, Murray said, that “does not constitute controlled clinical trials.”

An early-stage safety trial of TKM-Ebola began in January in healthy volunteers, but Tekmira announced in early July that the FDA had put the trial on hold until safety concerns were resolved. On Aug. 7, though, Tekmira said the FDA had changed the full hold placed on its Ebola drug to a “partial hold.” That action enabled the use of TKM-Ebola, shown to be 100% effective in treating Ebola-infected monkeys, to treat people infected with Ebola. Jahrling said he expects the safety trial will resume with a lower dose of the drug.

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