(RxWiki News) Ruth Atkins, 48, was the first volunteer to receive a candidate Ebola vaccine in a University of Oxford trial Thursday.
Atkins, a communications and engagement manager for the UK National Health Service, is one of 60 healthy volunteers who will receive the vaccine.
The vaccine, developed by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), has been fast-tracked in an effort to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
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"I volunteered because the situation in West Africa is so tragic and I thought being part of this vaccination process was something small I could do to hopefully make a huge impact," Atkins said in a press release.
The Ebola virus can cause Ebola virus disease, which has killed more than 2,400 people in West Africa in the current outbreak. The often fatal disease is marked by fever and severe bleeding.
The vaccine Atkins volunteered for uses a protein found in the Ebola virus to cause an immune system response in the body. This could make patients who receive the vaccine immune to the virus.
Because the vaccine doesn't contain the part of the virus that is infectious, volunteers in this vaccine trial cannot catch Ebola, an Oxford press release noted.
The Oxford vaccine trial isn't the only one seeking a way to prevent the spread of the virus. This trial is part of a series of trials of fast-tracked Ebola vaccine candidates. The NIH is testing the same vaccine at the same time as the Oxford trial.
Adrian Hill, a professor at Oxford's Jenner Institute, is leading the Oxford trial.
"Witnessing the events in Africa makes it clear that developing new drugs and vaccines against Ebola should now be an urgent priority," he said.
Early trials of the vaccine Oxford is now testing showed promise. The vaccine appeared to protect against Ebola in primates without major side effects.
"These are initial safety trials of the vaccine and it will be some time before we know whether the vaccine could protect people against Ebola," Dr. Hill said. "But we are optimistic that the candidate vaccine may prove useful against the disease in the future."
GSK will manufacture about 10,000 doses of the vaccine during the initial trials. That way, if the trials are successful, the vaccine can reach high-risk areas immediately.