Following Equatorial Guinea’s first-ever outbreak of Marburg virus disease, which has a fatality rate of up to 88%, global health officials are urgently exploring the feasibility of testing experimental vaccines in development. The World Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency meeting to discuss the situation. Still, the odds of a successful trial are low as control measures like quarantine could end the outbreak before vaccines can be administered. Epidemiologists stress the crucial need for speed in testing and vaccination efforts.
According to Nature, a World Health Organization panel met to examine how to test a vaccine against the Marburg virus in Equatorial Guinea. Virus-based vaccinations are leading the way, with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom producing the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington, DC, has created a candidate vaccine that uses a modified chimp adenovirus to deliver instructions to cells to make a Marburg virus protein; the Janssen Pharmaceuticals research and development center in Beerse, Belgium, has created a vaccine that uses the same human adenovirus that was used to create the company’s highly effective COVID-19 vaccine (Janssen is a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson).
The International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) in New York City, Public Health Vaccines (PHV) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Auro Vaccines in Pearl River, New York, are all developing candidates based on weakened forms of vesicular stomatitis virus, the vector used in the first approved Ebola vaccine.
According to the conference’s organizers, none of the vaccinations are now commercially available in large quantities. Sabin and PHV immunizations are only available in a few hundred doses, whereas the Janssen vaccine is available in thousands. The vaccine developed by IAVI and the pharmaceutical giant Merck of Rahway, New Jersey, is presently unavailable. In the United States, only the Janssen and Sabin vaccines have been investigated in their early phases of development. Monkey tests have shown that the top three options strongly protect against Marburg virus infection.
As per Ana Maria Henao-Restrapo, co-leader of the WHO’s R&D Blueprint program to create the foundation for such studies during outbreaks, if a vaccination trial were to be conducted in Equatorial Guinea, an independent committee of specialists who advise the WHO would decide which vaccines to test. Any trial would require the approval of the Equatorial Guinean government and the participation of representatives from the country.
Health officials worldwide are rushing to test experimental vaccines to protect against the deadly Marburg virus after Equatorial Guinea confirmed its first outbreak of the disease on February 13. The outbreak has been linked to nine deaths among 25 suspected cases, and the virus is related to Ebola, with a fatality rate of up to 88%. The World Health Organization convened an urgent meeting to discuss the feasibility of testing Marburg vaccines in various stages of development.