The Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015 caused alarm both worldwide and here in the United States — particularly after an infected man, Thomas Eric Duncan, traveled to Texas and later died in the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Now, scientists may be able to prevent the disease from turning into another epidemic in the future.
The Huffington Post reported that, even though the Ebola virus was discovered 40 years ago, it was only during the 2014-2015 winter season that scientists and health workers began researching a vaccine for it.
Only one small problem made the vaccine difficult to distribute: the needle.
Because the countries with the worst outbreaks are primarily countries with very little in terms of healthcare supplies and training, vaccines are often difficult to administer because a trained medical technician must be administering the dose. Without the proper training, the risk of infection and other complications is high.
Recently, a team of scientists from the University of Texas and the U.S. National Institutes of Health came together to create an Ebola vaccine that can be inhaled via an aerosol device or nebuliser, thus eliminating the needle without sacrificing the effectiveness of the vaccine.
Other vaccines, such as the annual influenza virus vaccine, have already been developed into inhalable forms, primarily for administering the vaccine to small children.
Anywhere between 5%-20% of the American population comes down with the flu every year; even though the vaccine isn’t 100% effective at stopping the virus, studies have shown that the symptoms and complications tend to be less severe after a patient has been vaccinated — and there seems to be no evidence thus far that an inhalable vaccine is any less effective against the influenza virus.
According to the scientists’ report, which was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the new Ebola vaccine seems to be doing just as well in its first clinical tests.
Scientists have just completed a study using rhesus macaques as subjects (macaques are primates that share 93% of human DNA, so they are often the first test subjects of medical developments).
The scientists state that the macaques received the vaccine through a nebuliser, and then injected with a lethal dose of the Ebola virus — and not only were there no adverse reactions to the vaccine, but every macaque was perfectly healthy after the Ebola virus injection, too.
The development comes at a critical time, Newsweek reported recently. Ebola had disappeared from Liberia for seven weeks after wreaking havoc there, but reappeared at the end of June.
Since the virus began spreading last year, it has caused more than 11,200 deaths, primarily in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.