Dr. Thomas Ksiazek, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), member of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Special Pathogens Unit and director of the High Containment Laboratory Operations at the Galveston National Laboratory, has returned from Sierra Leone — one of the epicenters of the Ebola outbreak. Ksiazek along with other experts from the (UTMB) is focused on battling the Ebola virus by providing clinical research, vaccine development, and outbreak response. Read about the UTMB’s experts involved in the Ebola’s research.
Over the past two weeks, the Ebola outbreak has brought Texas to the forefront, after the CDC and the Texas Health Department confirmed the first case of Ebola hemorrhagic fever diagnosed in the United States. The patient, Thomas Duncan, 42 years old, was returning from Liberia (another Ebola epicenter) and landed at Dallas airport where he was “warmly greeted by a relative,” according to The Daily Mail. Duncan is now under quarantine and in critical condition at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, which has a world-renowned reputation for treating some of the most difficult cases of infection in the nation.
So far, the current Ebola outbreak has more than 6,000 registered cases in West Africa, of which, more than 3,000 were fatal. There are no approved vaccines to prevent the infection or approved medicines to treat human patients infected with the Ebola virus yet, which has become increasingly alarming to the public. Nevertheless, there are major differences between the U.S. and the epicenters in Africa where the virus is spreading. “The United States has a strong health care system and public health professionals who will make sure this case does not threaten our communities, While it is not impossible that there could be additional cases associated with this patient in the coming weeks, I have no doubt that we will contain this,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC Director.
UTMB researchers are now working on new vaccines and a broad spectrum of treatments for highly lethal viruses like Ebola. Dr. Ksiazek received a $26 million collaborative Center of Excellence for Translational Research grant to continue his research. Supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Ksiazek will collaborate with several researchers and institutions. The capabilities of UTMB’s Sealy Center for Vaccine Development (SCVD), located on Galveston Island in Texas, are enhancing this work, since it is one of the most comprehensive vaccine development centers in the world. SCVD researchers are dedicated to finding new ways to treat infectious diseases of every type. The Center was inaugurated in December of 2001, and it includes more than 80 faculty members and more than 100 research programs at the present.
The SCVD’s homepage states: “The faculty and staff of the SCVD strive to create, perfect and promote the most effective and safest disease prevention strategies.” The center is highly specialized in translating laboratory findings into prevention of infectious diseases. “SCVD’s clinical trials group undertakes a variety of phase I, phase II and phase III studies in populations from neonates to senior citizens. Members of the center also examine influences on vaccine acceptance and uptake, and address issues relevant to the development of public policies governing health care, and facilitates education and training in vaccinology for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and physicians,” as noted in a previous article on BioNews Texas.
University of Texas Medical Branch