It would be impossible to have made it through the last year without hearing about the dangers of Ebola. Luckily, a battle against one of the scariest diseases in the 21st century was won! An Ebola vaccine has recently been created that effectively prevents the Zaire strain (ZEBOV) of Ebola. There are currently five identified Ebola strains known by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Ebola virus, Sudan virus, Taï Forest virus, Bundibugyo virus, and Reston virus. The last strain does not cause the disease in humans, so a total of four out of five strains are pathogenic to humans.
There are several key reasons why Ebola is such a widely feared disease. The first reason is its ease of transmission through contact with infected blood, bodily fluids, organs, and contaminated environments. Once infected, the virus has an incubation period (duration of time during which no symptoms show) of anywhere from two days to three weeks from the initial infection. People who are infected often show symptoms of fever, extreme weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and internal hemorrhage, and the disease is unfortunately fatal for most people. Until this vaccine, there was no cure for Ebola, so patients were treated with intravenous fluids (IV drip), and doctors simply hoped for the best outcome.
Image Source: John Moore
This all changed when a team of scientists designed an Ebola virus vaccine. Through their study, the team measured the amount of antibodies produced in the body after vaccination and tested patients’ blood against the Zaire Ebola strain in a recognized ELISA assay (diagnostic method) to test whether there was a neutralization effect for the pathogen. The results suggested that 100% of the patients had an expected immune response against the virus vaccine; however, none of the patients were actually exposed to the virus. This means that theoretically there should be protective immunity against the Zaire Ebola virus strain, but it has not been field tested.
Only time will be able to tell whether this is a lasting vaccine for the future. However, even just a glimmer of hope against this tragic disease is a definitely a step in the right direction.
Feature Image Source: Vaccine Production by Sanofi Pasteur