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19 September 2014 09:28
A trial to find a vaccine against the Ebola virus is due to take place at Oxford University
A trial to find a vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus is due to begin - and a volunteer from the UK will become the first person to receive the experimental drug.
A total of 60 people are due to take part in the safety trial at the University of Oxford, which may offer hope to people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other West African nations where Ebola has so far killed nearly 2,500 people.
More than half of those infected with the virus (53%) have died from the disease, according to the World Health Organisation - which should serve as a reminder for people travelling to Africa to take out medical travel insurance before they depart.
The vaccine, which is part of the current trial at Oxford, has been developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the US National Institute of Health. It is aimed at the "Zaire strand" of the virus which is among those found in West Africa.
Experts at Oxford University have emphasised that participants cannot get infected with Ebola as the drug only contains one benign protein found in the virus.
The vaccine will only be tested on healthy adults, and researchers will check for possible side-effects and the nature of the immune response. It has already been tested on animals, and early indications are that it can protect non-human primates from Ebola without significant side effects.
GSK is producing 10,000 extra doses of the vaccine while the trial takes place thanks to a £2.8 million funding boost from the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Department for International Development
If the Oxford trial is a success, the vaccine will be tested again in West Africa to ensure the research takes differences between populations into account.
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