The growing Ebola epidemic in Guinea has recently made headlines, as public health officials within that country, as well as world health officials, scramble to contain the rise of the virus in the native population, treat those who are infected, and head off any additional catastrophic rise in casualties. As BioNews Texas Contributing Editor Charles Moore has recently reported, there are research efforts underway to help combat the virus, such as a $28 million dollar NIH award to develop new treatment options, as well as Corgenix Medical Corporation’s recent move to extend its existing viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) rapid test kit development to include the Ebola virus for West Africa.
A University of Texas Medical Branch researcher says that, due to underfunding and few outbreaks of Ebola has left the medical community largely unprepared for a deadly Ebola outbreak such as this one. However, there may be one available option.
According to a news release from UTMB, Dr. Thomas Geisbert, a UTMB researcher with proven expertise in Ebola research, is currently working on a vaccine for the infection. VSV, which stands for vesicular stomatitis virus-based Ebola vaccine, has yet to be tested on humans. However, in the researcher’s animal-based clinical trials, the VSV vaccine cured 100% of the animals infected with Ebola. Given the severity of the outbreak in Guinea and the fact that the shot has worked so conclusively well in animals should be enough for it to be used in human cases in West Africa where there is little hope otherwise for survival. “You have to reach a balance between advancing science, medical ethics and saving lives,” Dr. Geisbert told Reuters. “It’s not easy, but how many people faced with the prospect of near certain death would opt to take their chances with the virus?”
Dr. Geisbert’s research into developing vaccines and treatment options for Ebola is well documented. He is currently leading his research effort in partnership with Profectus Biosciences, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, backed by a 5-year, $26 million grant. While his research and development for an Ebola vaccine has yet to be conducted through FDA-approved clinical trials in humans, the early-stage vaccine could be prescribed to patients in Guinea on “compassionate grounds” if the FDA and other governing public health bodies were to approve it.