Hopes rise for Marbug and Ebola vaccines

The Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research has begun tests on an experimental vaccine against the deadly Ebola and Marburg viruses.

The vaccine combines an adenovirus similar to the common cold but without the usual symptoms with noninfectious portions of both the Marburg and Ebola viruses. The adenovirus then serves as a carrier to take the remaining viral parts particles into cells. The immune system then recognizes those particles and begins its attack.

“I think it’s promising,” Jean Patterson, chairwoman of virology and immunology at Southwest Foundation, told Homeland Security Newswire. “The early data showed that it was extremely promising in rodents, and that’s why they needed to come to us.”

Both Marburg and Ebola are considered stable viruses so a developed immune response would be lifelong.

This is not the first time that the Southwest Foundation has worked with the Marburg and Ebola viruses. A previous study by Patterson and Emory University scientists resulted in a different Ebola vaccine - engineered from a bocavirus - that prevent mice from being infected with Ebola.

The new interest in creating a vaccine for these viruses comes at a time when U.S. health officials have express concern that the viruses could be used as biological weapons.

Since being discovered three decades ago, Ebola has sickened more than 1,850 people and resulted in over 1,200 deaths, the World Health Organization reports. Both viruses are normally confined to Africa, where outbreaks are limited, but the threat of bioterrorism has spurred the new research.