Study of Ebola Vaccine Halted Amidst Virus’ Largest Outbreak in History

As the Ebola outbreak rages on in West Africa, a questionable vaccine has become the subject of debate in the fight against the deadly virus.

“This should be the last Ebola epidemic without a cure,” Dr. Ahmed Tejan-Sie, an internist in Burlington, North Carolina said. Tejan-Sie started a petition on to urge the FDA to lift its suspension of Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp clinical trial of TKM-Ebola. The petition now has 15,000 signatures. “I’m not advocating that they take it out of the lab and start using it in West Africa. What I’m advocating is that the trials be accelerated,” Tejan-Sie added.

Tekmira’s drug has been tested on a few dozen healthy people, but the FDA halted the study after the subjects began displaying problematic immune responses. The FDA commented that the situation is delicate and the drug could only be tested on those infected with the Ebola virus if the risk-benefit ratio were more positive.

“In both cases [AIDS and Ebola], it seems that the involvement of powerless minority groups has contributed to a tardiness of response and a failure to mobilize an adequately resourced international medical response,” Professor John Ashton, the president of the UK Faculty of Public Health said. “In the case of AIDS, it took years for proper research funding to be put in place and it was only when so-called ‘innocent’ groups were involved (women and children, hemophiliac patients and straight men) that the media, politicians, scientific community and funding bodies stood up and took notice,” Ashton added.

The current Ebola epidemic in West Africa is the largest in history, having killed a total of 826 people since the outbreak began in February. Despite the number of deaths, Professor Ashton claims progress toward a vaccination correlates with the number of foreigners infected.

“I’m praying fervently that God will help me survive this disease,” Dr. Kent Brantly said in an email last week to Dr. David Mcray, the director of maternal-child health at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.

Brantly is one of a slew of victims of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) who contracted the disease while abroad in West Africa. Brantly was working in Liberia when he caught the sickness. The infected doctor is currently at Emory University hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, where he arrived Saturday as the first person with the Ebola virus to enter the United States.

The second American who served on the same mission team of Brantly, Nancy Writebol, was also infected with the disease while working as a hygienist in a Monrovia Ebola care center. Writebol is expected to return to the United States this Tuesday with a medical evacuation team.

Neither victim has been treated with the experimental vaccine at this time.

The severe Ebola outbreak has a fatality rate of nearly 90%. The virus is transmitted through direct contact with the blood, body fluids or tissue of infected animals or people. Symptoms of the disease include a sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, kidney and liver problems, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. There is currently no licensed vaccine for the disease.

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Dan Mullin is an active writer and editor for the Pluto Daily who covered the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Mullin attended the Wake Forest School of Medicine before leaving to pursue his lifelong science goal of allowing humans to live forever via a computer/brain transfer.