Merck's Ebola vaccine proves fully effective in Guinea trial

Fri Jul 31, 2015 8:00am EDT
 
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By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON, July 31 (Reuters) - An Ebola vaccine developed in record time has proved highly effective against the deadly virus in a large trial in Guinea and could now be used to help end a vast outbreak in West Africa, researchers said on Friday.

Results of the trial, which tested Merck and NewLink Genetics' VSV-ZEBOV vaccine on more than 4,000 people who had been in close contact with a confirmed Ebola case, showed it gave 100 percent protection after 10 days in those immunised.

Publishing the results online in the medical journal The Lancet on Friday, researchers said they showed that the vaccine could be "highly efficacious in preventing Ebola virus disease".

Jeremy Farrar, a leading infectious disease specialist and director of the Wellcome Trust, which helped fund the trial, described the results as "remarkable".

"This trial dared to use a highly innovative and pragmatic design, which allowed the team in Guinea to assess this vaccine in the middle of an epidemic," he said in a statement.

"Our hope is that this vaccine will now help bring this epidemic to an end and be available for the inevitable future Ebola epidemics."

Bertrand Draguez, medical director of Doctors without Borders (MSF), which has led the fight against Ebola in West Africa, said: "For the first time there is a prospect of a tool that could protect lives and break chains of transmission."

More than 11,200 people have died from Ebola since the epidemic began in Guinea in December 2013.

This and other vaccine trials were fast-tracked with enormous international effort as researchers raced to be able to test potential therapies and vaccines whilst the virus was still circulating. (Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Kevin Liffey)