Ebola is a particularly scary disease not only because of the way in which it kills you, but because there’s no cure, and no real vaccine. That’s obviously something scientists are working to change — and one vaccine that’s just finished trials with monkeys shows serious promise.
According to a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, a new type of vaccine can be inhaled into the lungs, where it activates immune cells, and provides protection against the Ebola virus. In testing, 12 monkeys were vaccinated (eight by aerosol, four by injection), and subsequently injected with the Ebola virus, along with two unvaccinated monkeys. By the end of the study, the unvaccinated monkeys had died, while those that had been vaccinated remained healthy, without any trace of the Ebola virus in their systems.
An aerosolised Ebola vaccine would be good news for two reasons: first, Ebola vaccine! — something that has not yet been successfully developed, making Ebola one of the scariest and most dangerous diseases around; and secondly, the fact that the vaccine could be inhaled means it could be administered without the aid of a doctor or nurse, a major help for distributing it across a third-world country.
Nevertheless, this isn’t a breakthrough moment; successful trials in monkeys don’t always translate well to human trials, which are the next step for this particular vaccine. But when you’re fighting a disease that’s killed 11,000 people in West Africa in the last 18 months, any good news is welcome.