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Experimental Ebola vaccine passes 1st test in humans

Washington, Nov 27 (EFE).- An experimental vaccine against Ebola developed in the United States has successfully passed its first test in humans, sparking an immune response to the disease without serious secondary effects in the 20 volunteers who received it, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The clinical trial began in September at the National Institutes of Health and its results are sufficiently promising for researchers to undertake a bigger study with thousands of participants in West Africa, where the deadly Ebola epidemic began and continues to ravage the population.

The response of the 20 volunteers receiving the vaccine “is very comparable” to what protects animals from the virus, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which collaborated in the clinical trial carried out at an NIH facility in Bethesda, Maryland.

The vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline, uses a common cold virus called adenovirus, which normally infects chimpanzees, but it was genetically manipulated with small portions of the Ebola virus.

The 20 volunteers who were vaccinated in the clinical trial produced antibodies against Ebola and only two of the people receiving the highest dose developed a fever, albeit of short duration.

The people receiving the highest dose also developed a stronger immune response, something that could signal a problem given that the larger the dose necessary to create immunity the more difficult and costly it will be to produce the vaccine in the quantities necessary to deal with the disease in West Africa and halt its spread.

U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the NIH center where the test was performed next Tuesday to congratulate the workers and to once again urge Congress to approve before yearend the $6.18 billion requested by his administration to contain the spread of the disease.

Since last March, a total of 15,351 Ebola cases have been detected, and 5,459 of those people have died, according to the latest figures compiled by the World Health Organization.

The countries most seriously affected by the epidemic so far have been Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.