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The Ebola questions

Scientists know a lot about the virus that causes Ebola — but there are many puzzles that they have yet to solve.

NATURE SCIENCE International Weekly Journal of Science                                   Oct. 29, 2014

By Erika Check Hayden

Scientists know a lot about the virus that causes Ebola — but there are many puzzles that they have yet to solve.

An Ebola virus particle from the 2014 outbreak.

To much of the world, the virus behind the devastating Ebola outbreak in Africa seems to have stormed out of nowhere. But Leslie Lobel thinks we should have seen it coming.

In 2012, Lobel and a team of researchers spent six months in Uganda studying the Ebola virus and related viruses. Over the course of their stay, these pathogens caused at least four separate outbreaks of disease in central Africa, affecting more than 100 people. To Lobel, a virologist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel, the outbreaks felt like the small tremors that can precede a major earthquake. “We all said, something is going on here; something big is going to happen,” he says.

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Genes Influence How Mice React to Ebola, Study Says In ‘Significant Advance’

NEW YORK TIMES                        Oct. 30, 2014

By Gina Kolata

Some people exposed to the Ebola virus quickly sicken and die. Others become gravely ill but recover, while still others only react mildly or are thought to be resistant to the virus. Now researchers working with mice have found that these laboratory animals, too, can have a range of responses to Ebola, and that in mice, the responses are determined by differences in genes.

Researchers at the University of Washington have been studying the Ebola virus in mice, and have found that the effects of the virus may be determined by genes.Video and photo by University of Washington.

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Swiss Agency Approves Trial for Ebola Vaccine

ASSOCIATED PRESS                                 Oct. 28, 2014
  GENEVA-- The Swiss agency that regulates new drugs said Tuesday it has approved an application for a clinical trial with an experimental Ebola vaccine at the Lausanne University Hospital.

In this picture provided by the World Health Organization, a package of vials of the first shipment of the experimental vaccine VSE-EBOV is opened at the Geneva Cantonal hospital on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomes the donation by the government of Canada of 800 vials of an experimental candidate vaccine, VSV-EBOV, against Ebola virus disease. Clinical safety trials with this experimental Ebola vaccine have already begun in healthy human volunteers in Mali, the United Kingdom and the United States after showing very promising results in animal research. . (AP Photo/WHO/Mathilde Missioneiro) 

Swissmedic said the trial will be conducted among 120 volunteer participants with support from the U.N. World Health Organization. The experimental vaccine is to be initially administered on healthy volunteers who will be sent as medical staff to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

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French scientists roll out rapid diagnostic test for Ebola

 FIERCE DIAGNOSTICS                            Oct. 23, 2014


French scientists are developing a diagnostic tool that works similar to a home pregnancy test and can quickly identify the virus through a tiny fluid sample.


  CEA's Ebola testing kit uses strips to rapidly identify the presence of the virus in fluid samples.--Courtesy of France's Atomic Energy  Commission

France's Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) is teaming up with European pharma company Vedalab to roll out a user-friendly testing system than could diagnose Ebola in less than 15 minutes, the agency said in a statement. The kit, dubbed "Ebola eZYSCREEN," includes a hand-held device that reads small samples of blood, plasma or urine to detect the virus, and shows results in stripes through a window on the tool.

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Leaked documents reveal behind-the-scenes Ebola vaccine issues


By Jon Cohen and  Kai Kupferschmidt                          OCT.23, 2014

Extensive background documents from a meeting that took place today at the World Health Organization (WHO) have provided new details about exactly what it will take to test, produce, and bankroll Ebola vaccines, which could be a potential game changer in the epidemic.

ScienceInsider obtained materials that vaccinemakers, governments, and WHO provided to the 100 or so participants at a meeting on “access and financing” of Ebola vaccines. The documents put hard numbers on what until now have been somewhat fuzzy academic discussions. And they make clear to the attendees—who include representatives from governments, industry, philanthropies, and nongovernmental organizations—that although testing and production are moving forward at record speed, knotty issues remain. 

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WHO says Ebola vaccine plans accelerating as trials advance


REUTERS                                       OCT. 24

By Stephanie Nebehay and Kate Kelland

GENEVA/LONDON, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Trials of Ebola vaccines could begin in West Africa in December, a month earlier than expected, and hundreds of thousands of doses should be available for use by the middle of next year, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Vaccines are being developed and made ready in record time by drugmakers working with regulators, the U.N. health agency said, but questions remain about their safety and efficacy which can only be settled by full clinical trials.

"Vaccine is not a magic bullet, but when ready they may be a good part of the effort to turn the tide against the epidemic," senior WHO official Marie-Paule Kieny told a news briefing after a meeting in Geneva of industry executives, global health experts, drug regulators and funders.

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Ebola kills, but it may be immunizing others at the same time

HOMELAND SECURITY NEWS WIRE                                         Oct. 22, 2014

Two Ebola researchers suggest that as Ebola continues to spread in West Africa, it may be silently immunizing large numbers of people who never fall ill or infect others, yet become protected from future infection. If such immunity is confirmed, it would have significant ramifications on projections of how widespread the disease will be and could help determine strategies that health workers use to contain the disease, according to a letter published last week in The Lancet medical journal.

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21-day quarantine for Ebola may not be enough to prevent spread of virus: Study

HOMELAND SECURITY NEWS WIRE                                              Oct. 20, 2014

As medical personnel and public health officials are responding to the first reported cases of Ebola Virus in the United States, many of the safety and treatment procedures for treating the virus and preventing its spread are being reexamined. One of the tenets for minimizing the risk of spreading the disease has been a 21-day quarantine period for individuals who might have been exposed to the virus.

 A new study by Charles Haas, Ph.D., a professor in Drexel’s College of Engineering, suggests, however, that twenty-one days might not be enough completely to prevent spread of the virus.

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Link to the study

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Ebola vaccine trials could start in Africa in January

UPDATE: Drugmakers to join forces to make millions of Ebola vaccine doses

REUTERS                                                                     Oct 22, 2014

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON -- Leading drugmakers plan to work together to speed up the development of an Ebola vaccine and hope to produce millions of doses for use next year.

U.S. firm Johnson & Johnson said on Wednesday that it aims to produce at least 1 million doses of its two-step vaccine next year and has already discussed collaboration with Britain's GlaxoSmithKline, which is working on a rival vaccine.

The economics of an Ebola vaccine are still unclear but drug companies with an eye on their reputations are under pressure to respond to the major international health crisis now ravaging one of the poorest corners of Africa.

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Long Quest for Ebola Vaccine Slowed by Science, Ethics, Politics

An experimental Ebola vaccine has been developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. Photograph by Steve Parsons, AP

Image: An experimental Ebola vaccine has been developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. Photograph by Steve Parsons, AP - October 14th, 2014 - Karen Weintraub

Ebola vaccines are so effective in monkeys that macaques can be protected or rescued even if they're injected with a hundred times the lethal dose of the Ebola virus after vaccination. But no one knows for certain whether the vaccines will work in humans; the vaccines haven't yet been rigorously tested in people.

Just developing the vaccines to test in monkeys was a grueling, decades-long process that has killed scores of macaques since the 1990s.


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