UPDATE 2-J&J starts vaccine trial in Sierra Leone, even as Ebola fades

Fri Oct 9, 2015 6:50am EDT
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* Trial to test safety and immunogenicity of Ebola vaccine

* J&J working with Bavarian Nordic on prime-boost vaccine (Adds executive comment, link to story on Ebola nurse)

By Ben Hirschler

Oct 9 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson has begun a clinical trial of a two-shot Ebola vaccine in Sierra Leone, underlining its determination to push ahead with development, even as the epidemic fades out in West Africa.

The new study will investigate the experimental product's safety and its ability to provoke an immune response to the disease, which the World Health Organization says has killed more than 11,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Last week, for the first time since the Ebola outbreak was declared in March 2014, there were no new confirmed cases of the deadly disease in those countries, according to the U.N. agency.

Some survivors still suffer long-term effects from the virus, which can persist in parts of the body after clearing the blood, including a Scottish nurse taken ill in Sierra Leone last year who is now back in hospital for more treatment.

The world already has one successful Ebola vaccine, with Merck and NewLink Genetics' product proving 100-percent effective in a clinical study in Guinea in July.

But scientists and drug companies are continuing to research the potential of alternatives, since different kinds of vaccines may be better suited for different population groups.   Continued...