Sudan Ebola vaccine trials start in US, 36 to be enrolled

Ebola treatment isolation unit

Members of Doctors Without Borders NGO set up an Ebola treatment isolation unit at the Mubende Regional Referral Hospital in Uganda on September 24, 2022. PHOTO | BADRU KATUMBA | AFP

A vaccine candidate for a type of Ebola virus has been administered to human beings for the first time, the International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) has announced.

The first participants in this trial were vaccinated in the United States this week. IAVI said in a statement that about 36 healthy adults will be enrolled and followed for six months after vaccination to monitor their safety and immune responses.

The vaccine candidate, if approved, will be used to fight the Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV) strain that hit Uganda late last year. There is no vaccine that has been approved for this strain of the Ebola virus.

It was first discovered in Sudan in 1976, the same year that the first Ebola virus outbreak was announced in Zaire (now DRC).

A scientific paper published in April this year in the journal Biomedical Central by Godfrey Bwire and colleagues on the lessons learnt from the 2022 outbreak in Uganda shows that there is an “urgent need to address the current SUDV outbreaks.”

“Despite its recurrence and high impact, SUDV appears to be neglected in terms of investment in research and development of medical countermeasures,” shows the paper.

When the outbreak occurred last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) set up an ad-hoc meeting to call out scientists to present their vaccine candidates for this virus strain.

IAVI was one of the organisations enlisted by the WHO.

The vaccine candidate under investigation is a product of an existing drug substance that has previously been studied and manufactured by the pharmaceutical company, Merck.

The drug substance in the market is a single-dose vaccine used for the Zaire Ebola virus strain and is available in 10 African countries as well as the US, UK, EU, Canada and Switzerland.

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