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Ebola Vaccine Passes Initial Human Tests 140

Posted by Zonk
from the no-more-bleeding-out-for-me dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Washingtonpost.com has an article about the first successful tests of an Ebola vaccine on human subjects." From the article: "Nabel and colleagues at the NIH's Vaccine Research Center developed a vaccine made of DNA strands that encode three Ebola proteins. They boosted that vaccine with a weakened cold-related virus, and the combination protected monkeys exposed to Ebola. The first human testing looked just at the vaccine's DNA portion; the full combination will be tested later. At a microbiology meeting in Washington on Friday, Nabel and colleagues reported seeing no worrisome side effects when comparing six people given dummy shots with 21 volunteers given increasing doses of the DNA vaccine."
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Ebola Vaccine Passes Initial Human Tests

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  • TFA says "volunteers" but I'll bet they're paid volunteers. I wonder if they're told that they're being injected with ebola?
  • If I remember correctly, Ebola was this virus a few years ago that "spread from apes to humans" and thus would spread and kill us all. Wait, isn't that what Avian Flu is going to do to us? It's all a lot of hype.
    • Re:What is Ebola? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by baryon351 (626717) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:03AM (#14747624)
      If I remember correctly, Ebola was this virus a few years ago that "spread from apes to humans" and thus would spread and kill us all. Wait, isn't that what Avian Flu is going to do to us? It's all a lot of hype.

      It's a lot of valid potentiality that gets drummed up as hype by doomsayers, the media, and anyone else who has something to gain by promoting a state of fear, interest or worry in people.

      Total worldwide ebola deaths since 1976 are 1,500. If you catch it, there's an 80% chance you'll die.

      But then there have been 1.2million people in the US alone killed in fatal car accidents in the same time period. If you're caught in a fatal car accident, there's a pretty big chance you'll die too.

      Avian flu is known to have killed under 100 people worldwide, since 1996. Worldwide deaths from normal influenza currently reach 500,000 EVERY SINGLE YEAR worldwide. FIVE MILLION PEOPLE since 1996.

      Read the above and you see how the panic effect of statistics is all in how the info is presented. Don't rely on alarmist messages of any type (this one included) to base your fears on, go & read up as much background info as you can. It makes the only sense.
      • The avain flue does not spread from human to human at this time

        But its 5x as deadly as teh 1918 flue pandemic which killed millions. In this global service economy it can easily kill over a billion people and wipe out 1 out of 6 people.

        Also auto deaths are very high. I drive with caution.

        • And there's nothing to show that it will start being transmissable from humans to humans either. It's one of those "if it does, it'll be bad" scenarios. Guess what - the plague was bad too! The Avian Flu has a 50% mortality rate (roughly) if caught, but right now your chance of catching it is near zero. One form of the black death had not only a 100% mortality rate (vs the ~35% of the most common type), but killed you within a matter of hours by causing your blood to coagulate while you're still alive
      • Re:What is Ebola? (Score:1, Insightful)

        by gklnx (867167)
        I think you are mistaking the point of the fear. The problem is in the death rate, not the total number of deaths.

        People are not afraid of the common flu, since the death rate nowadays is what, less than 0.01%? However, both Ebola and Avian Flu have a high chance of killing you, if you get it.

        I think that the concern currently is the transmission of the Avian flu virus like the common flu, i.e. influentza with a death rate of 50% or so.
      • Re:What is Ebola? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cruachan (113813) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @06:02AM (#14748603)
        Frankly that's an idiotic argument. Fortunatly our medical science has now advanced to the point we can see potential threats coming. Avian Influenza is a case in point - if it does mutate to pass from human to human then it's very likely to be a rerun of 1918 (the viruses are remarkably similar) and kill 5% of the population. The 1918 epidemic killed more people that WWI.

        Ebola is less of an immediate threat, but there are some signs that it, or something related, could mutate to an airborne or aerosol form. On the scale of risk the probability is low, but there's some convincing arguments that some past plagues - even the Black Death - were hemorregic fevers.

        It therefore makes sense that we take some preventative measures against potential threats now. Personally I'm very glad that the WHO hyped up Avian Flu because at least governments have started to take some precautions, pump money into vaccine development etc. If we are luckly and the virus doesn't mutate for another year or two then there's a good chance that the death rate from an epidemic could be substantially cut. Reducing the number of cases of Avian Flu in humans by culling birds and inducing fear in the populations where it occurs all helps by reducing the chances the virus has to mutate.

        Of course in some cases the percieved threat will never have been real, and in others preventative actions will stall a major disaster so the sceptics will argue there was no major threat in the first place. Whatever, in both human and economic terms the cost of a small amount of hype and preparatory action now will pay off many, many times over.
        • "Reducing the number of cases of Avian Flu in humans by culling birds and inducing fear in the populations where it occurs all helps by reducing the chances the virus has to mutate."

          Inducing fear in populations leads to a distribution nightmare for treatments.

          Due to all the scare and paranoia, there is a worldwide shortage of Tamiflu despite the fact that the actual need for the drug is far lower than the production capability. The problem is that tons of people who have no actual need for it are hoarding
          • That's a good point and it's difficult to know how that could be managed. However the problem is that H5N1 first came up on the radar as a potentially serious threat back in 1997 in Hong Kong, and although the HK authorities handled it well there, it was obvious that the virus didn't originate in HK and so hadn't been eliminated. Nevertheless it was then almost completely ignored by any form of Government anywhere.

            When in 2002/3 when it surfaced again seriously in Vietnam it was again almost completely ig
      • Avian flu is known to have killed under 100 people worldwide, since 1996. Worldwide deaths from normal influenza currently reach 500,000 EVERY SINGLE YEAR worldwide. FIVE MILLION PEOPLE since 1996. ...but who normally dies from "normal" influenza? Aged and young children or people with weak immune systems. It has the potential to kill a "normal, healthy individual", but how often does that happen? Not nearly as frequently.

        Avian flu has the potential to reach out and zap everyone, which is why it's a big dea
    • Re:What is Ebola? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kohaku Nanaya (945240) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:04AM (#14747631) Homepage
      Ebola is certainly deadly. If anything, it's underhyped. The thing that is overhyped however, is the "it will kill us all!" mentality. Sure, it's one of the most gruesome and deadly viruses around (classified even higher than AIDS), but it is spread only by direct contact with infected fluids. And when someone has Ebola, you KNOW they have it, and there is little chance you'll be close enough to the person to get infected. It mainly is prevalent in places like Africa, since they reuse needles in their hospitals there. Ebola takes 2 weeks or so after initial infection (about a week before anything starts to show up) to kill, or come close to killing a victim. It surrounds and destroys cells, and it is known to partially or completely liquify the kidneys and liver. There is craploads of bleeding from every orifice, and vomitting dead blood. They say even one droplet of blood at that stage contains at least 100,000,000 particles of the virus. It just destroys you, literally. There are a few strains, the one of the lowest mortality rate being 50%, and the highest being 90%.
      • Re:What is Ebola? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mysterius (937142) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:16AM (#14747677)
        Actually, Ebola has an incubation period of up to 3 weeks. Symptoms only appear after the incubation period. That means it is quite possible for someone to be infected and not notice. Check out the "Myths" section in Wikipedia's article on Ebola.
      • The thing that is overhyped however, is the "it will kill us all!"

        No, if an outbreak started in Kinshasha instead of in the jungle, the possibilities of rapid viral doom greatly increase. For one, Kinshasha is a big enough city with various modes of travel out of the city, and enough people "flux". As it stands, since it happens first in the boondocks, it's easy enough for it to be isolated relatively quickly once the alarm gets out.
    • There have been outbreaks in the US but fortunately it's been the far less virulent Ebola-Reston strain. I really don't think Ebola is a doomsday virus (yet) but for those that get it, I don't think there are many other worse ways to die. Remember, viruses can mutate under the right circumstances. If it ever became airborne, we'd be in some trouble. Another problem is that the symptoms aren't very apparent at first. They mostly look like the flu. The bleeding doesn't come along until later.
      • Yeash. I was talking about the parts that seperate it from other stuff. Ebola Reston could have easily been a bad situation, since it was airborne somewhat. But it only infected monkies.. so we were lucky.
    • Read this book. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0385479565/103-56 67832-1909461?v=glance&n=283155 [amazon.com] One of the quotes from the CDC official when asked how he felt about sums it how. "How does 'shit scared' grab you?"
    • Re:What is Ebola? (Score:2, Informative)

      by SnoopJeDi (859765)
      Read The Hot Zone [amazon.com] and you'll never make such a drastically wrong statement about Ebola ever again. It's some seriously nasty shit. In fact, if you just read the excerpt about Charles Monet's infection and eventual death, it will probably set you straight.

      Ebola makes liquid smoothies out of people, and the scare in Reston in 1989 shows how drastic an epidemic could be. If a strain of Ebola resembling Zaire in lethality towards humans and the airborne characteristics of Reston were to evolve, it would be a
  • Immunity (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Stoned4Life (926494)
    Quoting from the article, "...the vaccine recipients produced Ebola-specific antibodies, giving 'us some confidence that the vaccine is having an effect on the immune system'..." If this is the case, it will most likely be added among the shots we receive when we are born. Possibly, if all goes well, we could at it to Malaria as a thing of the past. You just have to wonder though, does it have the potential to mutate and develope new/different strands?
    • Re:Immunity (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Kohaku Nanaya (945240)
      Ebola right now has had millions of years to develop and grow. It is said to be one of the oldest lifeforms on Earth. It has become so used to us, that it can completely overcome our current immune system as if it were nonexistant. I'd be glad for a cure but..if anything has the ability to dramaticly change, it's this thing.
      • Huh? Ebola is immature in humans, that is proven by the fact that it generally kills the host before widespread transmission occours. Mature viruses do a great job of spreading by meerly weakening the host. The common cold, the flu, and AIDS are all examples of mature viruses in humans. They have all been sucessful by NOT immediatly killing the host which is why they have all spread to millions or billions of people whereas ebola has infected hundreds.
        • Plus, it's so dang lethal in a short time frame. Flu is successful (even the flu of 1917) becaues it took a week or so for you to die if you were going to die. Plenty of time for you to cough and snort over your environment, ensuring others got sick.

          Ebola tends to get transmitted in the Congo because of human-human contact. Person gets ebola, gets sick, people tending him get his blood on them, they get it ebola. But in a small village, there is likely to be one smart person who observes, "if everyone else
    • Re:Immunity (Score:2, Insightful)

      by grogdamighty (884570)
      I doubt that the Ebola vaccine will be added to infant vaccines any time soon - or even suggested for the general populace. Ebola isn't like the hepatitis viruses or HIV which might be quietly spread without showing any symptoms... when an outbreak happens, you know it's happening immediately and you can treat those affected and vaccinate the rest. Infant vaccines tend to be those viruses that can sneak under the radar easier but have high infant mortality rates.

      As for malaria, it is far from eradicated.

      • hailing from south africa, i find it distasteful to hear us being described as "the far reaches".
        malaria most definitely hasn't been eradicated, and although preventative measures are available, it's still not unthinkable to contract it in relatively developed areas.
        all it requires is some blood-suckers and a single infected person... think about how many lawyers exist YOUR side of the world!

        we're sending you an infected person over right now, we'll see how long you last.
        • There are still cases of malaria in the U.S. every year... I was just saying that it is more common in tropical regions and far, far, far more common in those regions which don't have adequate access to medical care.

          Will you agree not to send any lawyers now? =/

    • If this is the case, it will most likely be added among the shots we receive when we are born. Possibly, if all goes well, we could at it to Malaria as a thing of the past.

      Many people still get malaria in the poor parts of the world to this day. It's only a thing of the past in the rich western countries.

      You just have to wonder though, does it have the potential to mutate and develop new/different strands?

      Yes, there are already multiple strains of the virus. Their mortality rate ranges from "migh
      • It's a thing of the past in "rich western countries" because we've drained off most/all of the swamps, most of them have temperate, not tropical, climates, and the mosquitoes that harbor it don't do well outside of the tropics or were beaten back while DDT was still being used, and have been outcompeted by other mosquito species. That notwithstanding, the incidences of Dengue Fever, for example, are slowly creeping up in Florida... then there's west nile virus, equine encephalitis, etc... Bug people were su
      • The only thing I could think of was that maybe he was thinking of smallpox. That's been eradicated from the wild. Even polio is holding on in a few areas, mostly due to religious leaders stirring them up against the vaccine(something about it being birth control from what I heard).

        Malaria is actually making a comeback, which some attribute to the banning of DDT. They say that DDT, used properly is effective and safe. You just don't go spraying whole countries with it.
  • waste of resources (Score:2, Insightful)

    by f1055man (951955)
    considering the rarity of ebola, what's the point of a vaccine? Who do you even give it to? From wikipedia: "Of the approximate 1,500 identified Ebola cases worldwide, over 80% of the patients have died." Maybe we should be working on a cure for fan death instead.
    • I think that if you can save at least one life by doing something, it is worth it. It is rare, yes, but the possibility of people dying from it is very real.
      • I disagree completely. If it's too expensive, then it's not worth it, even if you save one life. You could use the money to prevent a million kids from getting polio instead.
        • Humane attitude you got there. To save even more money, let's never treat anyone - including you if you happen to catch something. It's too expensive. Honestly, tell me, if you catch a disease why should we bother treating you if it's too expensive to treat others? I sure can't think of a reason.

          A clue for you, friend: when you're dying of a disease you don't give a damn about how much the cure costs. And believe it or not, some people in the world aren't as selfish and tight as you and actually want to

          • To save even more money, let's never treat anyone - including you if you happen to catch something.

            Thanks for the strawman, but ProfaneMF never said that at all - he/she said spend the money on something else instead, and I quote, "You could use the money to prevent a million kids from getting polio instead." Brush up on your reading skills.

            ProfaneMF is correct ... Ebola kills a miniscule number of people (a few dozen a year, give or take), while millions of people die each year from curable diseases lik

          • Mistshadow, I agree with you. I feel like walking up to PMF and telling him (or her), "You have cancer. There is a cure, but it costs too much to manufacture. Have a nice day!"

            Polio is almost as uncommon as ebola and far less deadly. Today only about 1000 new cases of polio occur each year, and the WHO is working to eliminate the virus completely, despite civil war in Sudan and a boost in cases in Nigeria, which claimed the West was tainting the vaccine with sterility substances and HIV to destroy Islam. A

    • Well, I'm pretty sure that the 1500 people who've caught it in the past would have appreciated a vaccine, and if this vaccine works, there will almost certainly be lives saved in the future.

      Besides, learning how to combat Ebola may help us fight other similar viruses, especially if it's generic enough to work on all strains of Ebola, including the one that hasn't passed to humans yet (I forget the name offhand, but it was discovered in a research facility in the US).
      • (I forget the name offhand, but it was discovered in a research facility in the US).
        Ebola Reston (named for Reston, VA) was the strain if I remember The Hot Zone correctly. Good book too. the opening chapter describing someone crashing and bleeding out are pretty intense.
    • by Mike570 (884414) <mkmartin570 AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:33AM (#14747737)
      considering the rarity of ebola, what's the point of a vaccine? Who do you even give it to? From wikipedia: "Of the approximate 1,500 identified Ebola cases worldwide, over 80% of the patients have died." Maybe we should be working on a cure for fan death instead.

      It could be used to help fight an outbreak. Right now the only thing we have is isolation. If we could send health workers a few dozen miles ahead of the outbreak to start innoculating people, that might stop the outbreak in its tracks. Of course, it may take a while for full immunity to take effect but I imagine even partial immunity is better than nothing.
      • Well, lucky for humanity, it seems to be too lethal, but it does mutate quickly. A slightly less lethal version that had a slightly longer shelf-life could cause lots more problems.

        Which is all the reason why there is such a hubbub about SARS and bird flu. Some of it is panic mongering. Some of it is plain and simple "the potential of this to do bad shit on a wide scale in a short time is worth scaring people and developing a vaccine quickly".

        Are we worried about the people who actually live in the Congo ju
    • A few points here:

      - They didn't say how difficult it was to create a vaccine. Maybe it was easy. Some vaccines are easier to create than others.

      - Working on a project like this often leads to discoveries that are useful in fighting other diseases

      - Just because there have been limited outbreaks in the past doesn't mean there won't be worse ones in the future (although I think Ebola is too deadly to spread very far)

      - Ebola can be used in biological terrorist attacks, and it would likely be quite effective.
    • Right, so you're quite happy to run the risk of an airborne Ebola strain because you'd rather save a relatively small amount of money?

      Ebola outbreaks currently burn themselves out pretty fast because they are (a) horrific and very deadly, so really motivate the population to take action and (b) only transmitted by blood contact. However there have been some indications of a monkey strain that can transmit either airborne or aerosol.

      Add to that there's a good argument that the Black Death was not bubonic pl
    • Ebola is horrific, and spreads very rapidly to people who have contact with an infected person (who is in the latter stages of the disease). It takes a while to get going but once breakdown starts it proceeds quickly.

      The worry is that a person who gets infected for instance in Africa might start feeling ill, panic and head for an airport. They arrive at the airport and start leaking infected blood - worst case scenario it becomes airborne somehow and the whole airport gets infected. A few weeks later and

  • by Deliveranc3 (629997) <deliverance AT level4 DOT org> on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:22AM (#14747697) Journal
    We used to puke blood and have gaping sores appear and gosh darn it that's how we LIKED it!
    • It needs to go to an 'everyone can moderate everything' system like kuro5hin or digg. Most people would knock the above butt-extruded joke down but, because there are 4 retards who found it funny it gets rated high and stays that way because no-one wants to waste their points.
      • You're probably more in the minority instead of the majority if you would have moderated that down.
        As for 'wasting' mod points, I look at each comment and if I really think it deserves to be modded up or down, I'll spend the point. Most of the time I have mod points that expire unallocated.
  • So....

    Who first?
  • So theres a study that says that one component of the vaccine has no harmful side effects on humans. But does it work? And more importantly, how much can I make by buying up some pharmco stock now?
  • Since the primary victims of this disease are impoverished, will this be given at no cost to them?

    If not, then the research was moot.
    • It'll get tested on them for efficacy. Once it's proven effective, then they'll get charged for it. That may sound cynical, but look at what' happened with the recent rotavirus vaccine - since the last rotavirus vaccine was taken off of the market for safety concerns, the new one was tested almost entirely in Latin American countries. The official explanation was that it was needed there more than other places - but the real reasoning is that those locations are easy and cheap to test in, with little or
      • Well, if their exposure to the virus in the wild is far greater there than in Europe, US, whatever, then it makes more sense to do it there, too, even at the risk of "exploiting" the natives. If it's going to work as a preventative, then it needs to work in the hot zones, so to speak, otherwise it's not really going to work.

        We have no problem testing new cancer treatments that are on the verge of lethal for "normal" people on terminal cancer patients...why is this any different, then?

        If I think I've develop
        • "We have no problem testing new cancer treatments that are on the verge of lethal for "normal" people on terminal cancer patients...why is this any different, then?"

          Well, you tell me: Is there a difference between a potentially lethal drug being used on a terminal patient, and a potentially lethal drug (yes, the old one killed some people) being used on someone that's just going to have diarrhea for a few days?

          Sure, you could argue that those people would die from dehydration
        • One more thing...

          "If I think I've developed a new treatment or prevention of cholera or typhoid, I'm not testing it in Anchorage, AK. I'm going to Manila, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janiero, Cairo, etc. to see if it actually works, once I'm pretty sure that the drug won't kill those it is put into outright. I can't just sneak into a water treatment center and surreptitiously route sewage discharge into the drinking water supply bypassing the filters and Cl2 treatments, etc."

          If it were really that importan
  • I thought my job interview with Frito Lay was tough!
  • by Belseth (835595) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @01:07AM (#14747854)
    Let me guess the group bleeding out of their eyes got the placebo?
    • No, it would have been the other way around. This was simply a test to see if the vaccine does NOT evoke the thing it is trying to prevent (Ebola) or cause any other outright acute adverse events. Eventually there will be inocculation with the vaccine followed by exposure to Ebola virus (or enough of the virus to see if an immunologic response is evoked while minimizing the risk of actually getting Ebola).

  • Without discounting their achievement, I would like to say that 21 people is very less a number to be satisfied about the safety of a drug. Lethal idiosyncratic aplastic anemia in chloramphenicol occurs in 1 in 25000 people, which was sufficient for this drug to be almost kicked out of the market (it is only used where all other drugs have failed).

    Also, it is yet to be seen if side effects appear in the patients in the presence of Ebola virus, since all these subjects were not exposed to Ebola virus (ofcour
    • For a little clarification, Chloramphenicol is still used widely in veterinary applications. There are just extra precautions taken to prevent ingestion (even absorption through the skin.) and it generally is not sent home with owners to administer to pets.

      And 21 people is indeed a small trial, but this is probably just a stepping stone to larger trials. And some diseases are worth the risk of possible side effects.
      • Lets consider the case of typhoid fever - Chloramphenicol is the most effective drug in the lab. However, when it comes to practical use it is replaced by fluoroquinolones and ceftriaxone because of the potential side effects. When Chloramphenicol was introduced half a century ago, it was widely hailed as a broad spectrum antibiotic and indiscriminately used. However, only after it was administered to millions of people its idiosyncratic dyscrasia (aplastic anemia) came to be known - considering the inciden
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @01:25AM (#14747899) Homepage Journal
    Until I read the whole blurb, I was sure that Ebola was aceing final exams in sociology and psychology, now that they play the role that the old driver's test used to play in becoming a "real person" in America.

  • Yeah, that's a weird subject for an ebola thread.

    I once dated a girl who worked in a pathology lab identifying contagious disease samples. When she'd talk about it, she made it sound like she dealt with some pretty serious stuff, so I asked her what she had worked with that day. I don't recall all of the different things, but among them were two different types of ebola. That kind of surprised me. I mean, the 3 or 4 different types of HIV you can expect - with hundreds of m
    • Well, if you've read "The Hot Zone", there are at least two different strains of Ebola. Actually, each outbreak of Ebola seems to be a little bit different. The strain that came into the US is now called the "Reston" strain. Luckily it only caused bad flu-like symptoms in the two people who got it from the monkeys that were in that Reston, VA, business park, and it didn't turn into the full meltdown version that usually happens in Africa.

      What is even more interesting about Ebola is that Ebola antibodies are
  • Didn't Dustan Hoffman already find a cure for Ebola?
  • by Bizzeh (851225)
    wasnt their always a cure for ebola? or was that just a movie thing?
  • by biglig2 (89374) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @08:59AM (#14749056) Homepage Journal
    "We're going to test this vaccine on you, now there may be a few side effects."
    "What sort of thing, doc?"
    "Well, nausea, itching, your entire body melting, and there's a chance of drowsiness. So avoid using heavy machinery."

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