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New Testing Starts on Experimental Ebola Vaccine

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U.S. health officials said Wednesday they have started a new human trial of an Ebola vaccine at a government-run hospital outside Washington, D.C. That makes three human Ebola vaccine trials in the United States. Trials are also under way in Britain and Mali.

This vaccine is made using an animal virus called vesicular stomach virus, or VSV, genetically engineered with a piece of Ebola virus. It was developed by Canadian and U.S. scientists and has been licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp.

The team at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) will give volunteers two doses of the vaccine, called a prime-boost strategy. A team at the nearby Walter Reed Army Institute of Research is giving volunteers a single dose.

“The need for a vaccine to protect against Ebola infection is urgent,” said NIAID director Dr. Tony Fauci. It’ll be months before any vaccine would be available, and even then it will be a small amount, probably used to protect health care workers. But experts say it’s a vital first step to getting doctors, nurses and technicians to even come and help fight the outbreak. Health workers are among those at highest risk of getting infected.

Governments are pushing for accelerated development of Ebola vaccines because of the epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where 10,000 people have been infected and more than half have died. Drug companies have opted not to develop Ebola vaccines on their own.

NIAID and GlaxoSmithKline started testing a different vaccine in September. Results on safety for both vaccines and early indications of whether they will protect against disease are expected by the end of the year.

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