Ex-NHS Nurse Tests Experimental Ebola Vaccine

A former NHS nurse has become the first person to be injected with an experimental ebola vaccine.

Ruth Atkins was given the jab in her arm and then carefully monitored by doctors for any side effects.

She is the first of 60 healthy volunteers to take part in a clinical trial at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute.

She was paid just 380 – not for the risk, but for any loss of earnings.

An hour after having the vaccine she said: “I feel absolutely fine. It felt no different to being vaccinated before going on holiday.

“I volunteered because the situation in West Africa is so tragic and I thought being part of this vaccination process was something small I could do to hopefully make a huge impact.”

The vaccine is made from a harmless chimpanzee virus that has been genetically modified to carry a benign payload of ebola DNA.

The genetic material will make a single ebola protein in the body – not enough to cause the disease, but enough to prime the immune system to attack the virus in future.

The volunteers will be given different doses and then monitored for side effects and their immune response.

Trials in monkeys have shown the vaccine is 100% effective in the first month, with some protection remaining 10 months later.

Professor Adrian Hill, who is leading the research team, said: “These are initial safety trials of the vaccine and it will be some time before we know whether the vaccine could protect people against ebola.

“But we are optimistic that the candidate vaccine may prove useful against the disease in the future.”

Scientists and medicines regulators are fast-tracking the testing process, which would normally take at least 18 months.

They hope to start widespread use of the vaccine in West Africa early next year.

The manufacturers, GlaxoSmithKline, will scale up production even while testing is underway, so 10,000 doses will be ready to be sent out to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea as soon as the vaccine is given the green light.

The vaccine has been welcomed by Professor Peter Piot, who discovered the ebola virus, and is now Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

He told Sky News the vaccine should be given to healthcare workers who are at high risk of becoming infected.

But he warned there would not be enough doses to protect whole communities and “tens and tens of thousands” would still die.

“Whether this new vaccine will be useful to stop the epidemic I don’t know,” he said.

“Let’s hope the epidemic will be nearly finished by the end of the year, or in six months’ time.

“If it lasts much longer the vaccine will be there. But let’s not forget there will be other epidemics.”

Almost 5000 people have so far been infected by the virus in West Africa – half of them have died.

But worryingly the epidemic is accelerating, with half the cases occurring in just the last three weeks.

Professor Hill said: “Witnessing the events in Africa makes it clear that developing new drugs and vaccines against ebola should now be an urgent priority.

“It is tremendous that so many people have worked hard to make this trial happen in short time, and I am enormously grateful to those volunteers who have come forward to take part.”

The trial has been funded by a 2.8m grant from the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the UK Department for International Development.

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17 September 2014 | 5:19 pm – Source: orange.co.uk

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