Inhalable Ebola vaccine developed

Scientists have tested the first inhalable vaccine for Ebola in what could be a landmark development in the fight against the deadly virus.

A new study published yesterday found that primates who were treated with the vaccine survived when later injected with a lethal dose of the Ebola virus and showed no negative reactions to the vaccine.

The researchers claim the vaccine, which does not require needles or medical expertise to be administered, could revolutionise treatment of Ebola in regions of Africa lacking adequate health facilities.

They also say that the vaccine could be used to protect people were the Ebola virus ever to be utilised in biological warfare.

Ebola has claimed more than 11,200 lives since the outbreak began last year. The deaths have occurred almost exclusively in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

After a seven-week absence, Ebola reemerged in Liberia at the end of June with the sixth Ebola-related death of the new outbreak in the country being reported today.

"A non-invasive, needle-free respiratory tract vaccine against [Ebola] presents certain advantages," according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and was led by scientists from the University of Texas and the US National Institutes of Health.

"Immunisation will not require trained personnel, making it particularly useful in areas of Africa that lack adequate infrastructure, where most [Ebola] disease outbreaks occur."

The vaccine was administered to rhesus macaques, which share about 93% of their DNA with humans. It was delivered by placing a nebuliser over the nose and mouth of the macaques, who then inhaled the vaccine. Recent studies have shown that Ebola can be transmitted through inhalation as well as through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected subject.

According to the researchers, the study also demonstrates the first successful aerosol vaccination against a viral haemorrhagic fever - a group of serious viruses, including dengue fever and yellow fever, which affect multiple organ systems in the body and can lead to death by internal bleeding.

There is currently no widely-available vaccine to prevent Ebola. Several other potential vaccines are in development, but these are all needle-based, according to the study.

Standard diagnostic procedure for Ebola requires trained personnel, can take up to six hours and cost $100 (€90).