Clinical trials are starting for a new Ebola vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, designed to tackle the two strains responsible for nearly all outbreaks and deaths worldwide.
The university has launched a Phase I trial to test the vaccine in human volunteers, with the first jabs taking place today.
The study is currently recruiting for further volunteers.
There are four species of the Ebola virus which are known to cause disease in humans.
The new vaccine is designed to tackle the Zaire and Sudan strains, of which Zaire is the most lethal form – causing death in 70% to 90% of cases if left untreated.
Zaire is also responsible for most outbreaks, including the 2014-16 West Africa outbreak, and the 2018 outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which resulted in more than 32,000 people infected and more than 13,600 deaths.
Other Ebola vaccines do exist based on the Zaire species, but Oxford researchers hope the new jab will have a wider reach.
In these new clinical trials, 26 people aged between 18 and 55 will receive one dose of the ChAdOx1 biEBOV Ebola vaccine at the University of Oxford.
They will then be monitored over the course of six months, with results expected in the second quarter of 2022.
The vaccine is based on a weakened version of a common cold virus that has been genetically modified so it cannot replicate in humans.
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Teresa Lambe, associate professor at the Jenner Institute and lead scientific investigator at the University of Oxford, said: “Sporadic Ebolavirus outbreaks still occur in affected countries, putting the lives of individuals – especially frontline health workers – at risk.
“We need more vaccines to tackle this devastating disease.”
Dr Daniel Jenkin, principal investigator of the trial at the Jenner Institute, added: “Recent advances have led to the approval of vaccines against one of the viruses that causes Ebola virus disease.
“However, this disease can be caused by several different species of virus and each of these may require a targeted immune response to offer protection.
“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 I clinical trials.”