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Oxford starts human trials of Ebola vaccine

A team of researchers at the University of Oxford on Thursday rolled out the first human trials of an Ebola vaccine developed using the same technology as the AstraZeneca Covid jab.

The trial will be conducted on 26 volunteers, aged between 18 and 55 years, to determine the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine called ChAdOx1 biEBOV.

It will assess the vaccine’s efficacy and the immune response it creates against Zaire and Sudan Ebola virus species in healthy adult volunteers.

“We are carrying out a clinical trial of a new Ebola vaccine called ‘ChAdOx1 biEBOV’ which is designed to target two of the deadliest species of Ebola-causing viruses,” according to a statement of the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford.

The vaccine is based on the ChAdOx1 vaccine technology that was previously successfully used to develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

It is developed using adenovirus — a weakened version of the common cold virus that is genetically modified so that it cannot replicate in humans.

The trial participants will be monitored over a six-month period, with results expected in the second quarter of 2022.

Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness that is transmitted to people from wild animals and then spreads in the human population through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people.

There are four species of Ebola virus that have been known to cause disease in humans. Of these, Zaire is the most lethal, causing death in 70-90 per cent of cases if left untreated.

While rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine is currently approved against Ebola, the research team believes “the world needs new vaccines against Ebola”.

“This disease can be caused by several different species of virus and each of these may require a targeted immune response to offer protection,” Dr Daniel Jenkin, principal investigator of the trial at the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

“We have designed our new vaccine to target the two species of virus that have caused nearly all Ebolavirus outbreaks and deaths, and now look forward to testing this in phase one clinical trials,” he added.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is currently seeing an outbreak with eight cases, including six deaths reported since the beginning of October.

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