A universal Ebola vaccine may fight all four virus species that infect humans, according to preclinical tests of a new treatment at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Data published in the Journal of Virology shows the virus could work as a stand-alone protection, but may also help extend or enhance the durability of immunity caused by other vaccines currently being tested in clinical trials against individual Ebola strains.
“This could be a significant advancement in the global effort to prevent or manage Ebola outbreaks, especially if this vaccine used alone or in combination with another Ebola vaccine results in long-term and durable protective immunity against different Ebola viruses,” Dr. Karnail Singh, the study’s co-principal investigator, said.
The virus achieves this through a novel approach, based on a manmade bivalent, spherical Ebola virus-like particle (VLP) crafted from two genetically diverse glycoproteins from different Ebola species. VLPs like this can also stimulate immune responses but lack the genetic material that would allow them to cause illness. In animal models, this vaccine has led to robust immune responses, though researchers stress that extensive additional preclinical testing would be needed to prepare for the potential of clinical trials.
Until this current study, none of the new vaccines under development have induced immune responses that cross-react against multiple Ebola virus species responsible for the disease in humans, Singh and his colleagues pointed out.
Dr. Paul Spearman, Division Director of Infectious Diseases at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, said that vaccine challenge experiments are currently in planning stages. However, they will require additional external funding to manage.
“If the data from those studies is equally encouraging, the vaccine should be ready to progress to generation of clinical grade material for human trials,” Spearman said.
Collaborators on this study included the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, the Emory University School of Medicine, and the University of Louisiana’s New Iberia Research Center.