Tag Archives: Ebola

Ebola vaccine in use thanks to ‘curiosity-driven’ basic research

There was no known widespread outbreaks of Ebola when the vaccine was developed 15 years ago using animals, says Kirk Leech, EARA Executive Director.

There’s a worrying new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — the second the country has faced since the largest-ever Ebola virus epidemic swept West Africa from 2014 to 2015.

The World Health Organization (WHO) learned about the new outbreak in early May, but suspects that, since April, a total of 44 people have been infected with Ebola including 23 deaths. Three of the deaths involved health care workers.

The experimental vaccine was created by the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2003, the vaccine was shown to be effective in monkeys. However, because of a lack of pharmaceutical company interest before the West Africa outbreak, it literally sat on a shelf until it was licensed to Merck in 2014.

The Ebola vaccine, which it is hoped can stem the new outbreak, was developed when there was no public health emergency, and no known widespread outbreak of Ebola. There had only been 1500 cases registered world-wide in the previous three decades. The research involved, and the animals used, were essentially for curiosity-driven, basic research trying to understand, and not for some immediate clinical application.

Yes, we may now have an Ebola vaccine, but as important as this is, that’s not why the research using animals began. It began with a very human, but much maligned (especially when animals are involved) intellectual pursuit to better understand what keeps humans and animals alive and healthy.

Ebola is a viral disease that is transmitted to people from wild animals. The virus is thought to exist naturally in some fruit bats and can be transmitted to humans through bodily fluids of infected animals or through the consumption of ‘bush meat.’ Once the virus is introduced to the human population it spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people. Symptoms such as fever and bleeding from orifices can be seen after four to ten days, few people survive contact.

 

Another year of medical achievements thanks to animal research

A look back by EARA at some of the important discoveries in recent times

The last year has once again seen an impressive list of medical achievements globally, as scientists find better treatments for devastating diseases.

Among the breakthroughs reported are:

  • Human trials are now closer for an Ebola vaccine with a team at UW–Madison School of Veterinary aiming to produce an experimental vaccine (March 2018) that has already been proven to work safely in monkeys.
  • Researchers at University College London have announced (Dec 2017) that there is now hope for a way to stop Huntington’s disease, described as the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases in 50 years.
  • 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded with help of fruit fly (drosophila) study. The discoveries of the group of scientists who worked on the project show how plants, animals and humans co-ordinate their biological rhythms with the Earth’s daily cycle.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “There is no doubt that we would not see the remarkable advances in biomedical research that have occurred recently, without the use of animals.

“While alternative methods to animal research, such as computer models and cell cultures are important, testing using animals remains the safest and most effective way to produce drugs and treatments for us all.”

Animal research is integral to ongoing research in areas such as spinal cord repair, stem cell treatments (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), gene therapy (muscular dystrophy, diabetes) and molecularly targeted cancer medicines.

Historically, animal research has also led to new diagnostic tests for early treatment (cancer, heart disease); and effective treatments for serious illnesses (diabetes, leukemia, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease).

The same research often helps humans and animals (treatments for arthritis, neurological disorders, organ transplants, cancer therapies) and contributes to farm animal welfare and techniques to save endangered species.

End