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Novel Synthetic DNA Vaccines Safe To Use Against Ebola: Scientists

While there are no licensed treatments available for Ebola virus disease yet, multiple experimental therapies are being developed.

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A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a woman who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have found that the novel synthetic DNA vaccine is safe against Ebola virus and offers a long-term alternative to traditional vaccines.

The team, from The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, US, optimised a shorter, dose-sparing, immunisation regimen and simplified vaccine that can be directly administered into the skin. They targeted a virus surface protein called glycoprotein.

This new approach induced rapid and protective immunity from virus challenges.

Importantly, the approach showed strong immune responses one year after the last dose, supporting the long-term immunogenicity of the vaccine — a particularly challenging area for Ebola vaccines.

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A boy runs past a dispenser containing water mixed with disinfectant, east of Mbandaka, DRC. VOA

“Synthetic non-viral based DNA technology allows for rapid vaccine development by delivery directly into the skin, resulting in consistent, potent and rapid immunity compared to traditional vaccine approaches,” said lead researcher David B. Weiner, Director of Wistar’s Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center.

“An anti-Ebola virus DNA vaccine like this may provide an important new tool for protection, and we are excited to see what future studies will unveil,” he added.

In the study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the team detected antibody levels were equal or higher to those reported for other vaccines currently being evaluated in the clinic.

“The success of intradermal delivery of a low-dose regimen is very encouraging,” said Ami Patel, Ph.D., associate staff scientist in the Weiner Lab. “The ultimate goal of our work is to create effective and safe vaccines that are optimised for field use in at-risk areas.”

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Photo taken Sept 9, 2018, shows health workers walking with a boy suspected of having the Ebola virus at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Eastern Congo. VOA

Ebola virus disease is a serious and often fatal illness that can cause fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain and haemorrhage (severe bleeding).

First discovered in humans in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the largest outbreak occurred in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, which claimed more than 11,000 lives, according to the World Health Organization.

Also Read: Ebola Increases The Number of Orphans in DRC: UNICEF

The death rate is about 50 per cent and the virus is spread by contact with contaminated body fluids, including blood and semen.

While there are no licensed treatments available for Ebola virus disease yet, multiple experimental therapies are being developed. (IANS)

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US Health Secretary Applauds Uganda’s Efforts to Control Spread of Ebola in East and Central Africa

Since June, Uganda has identified and isolated four Ebola victims who entered the country from the Democratic Republic of Congo

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FILE - Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks with reporters after a meeting about vaping with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Sept. 11, 2019. VOA

U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services Alex Azar has applauded Uganda’s efforts to control the spread of Ebola in east and central Africa; however, while the U.S. remains the primary funder of Uganda’s health care sector, the secretary did not shy away from asking the East African country to find funds to independently sustain its health care budget. US.

Since June, Uganda has identified and isolated four Ebola victims who entered the country from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The monitoring has prevented the Ebola epidemic which has killed nearly 2,000 people in eastern Congo from crossing the border.

Secretary Azar is leading a U.S. delegation to Rwanda, the DRC and now Uganda regarding Ebola.

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Relatives of the 5-year-old boy who became Ebola’s first cross-border victim, and others, listen as village leaders and health workers educate them about Ebola, in Kirembo, Uganda, June 15, 2019. VOA

“There’s immense work that has had to be done in bolstering preparedness and response capacities. Screening those crossing the borders and responding to the discovery of cases. Uganda, particularly the Ministry of Health and Minister Aceng have risen to the occasion providing a model for the region,” said Azar.

The U.S. is a major financier of Uganda’s health sector, helping to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, Ebola and improve maternal and child health care.

In fiscal year 2018, the U.S. provided more than $511 million in health care funding.

Secretary Azar encouraged Uganda to be more self-sustaining.

Also Read- US’s Worst Measles Epidemic in 27 Years to be in Its Final Stages as No New Cases Reported

“And we have seen tremendous achievement in Uganda in terms of the building up of the public health system and health care infrastructure as a result of that partnership,” Azar said. “Now of course, overtime that needs to be more self-sustained. And that does require that Uganda invest its own resources also in the health care system.”

Ambassador Deborah Malac expressed confidence Uganda is capable of meeting its own health care needs.

“But one cannot expect that the U.S. government will be the donor of choice in this area, you know, in an open-ended future,” said Malac. “So, it really is about building its capacity and ultimately putting ourselves out of the assistance business.”

On Sunday, there were reports from Tanzania that a doctor who was studying in Uganda had died of a viral infection akin to Ebola. The Tanzanian ministry quickly came out and denied the allegations, calling them rumors.

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U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services Alex Azar has applauded Uganda’s efforts to control the spread of Ebola in east and central Africa. Pixabay

Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the World Health Organization representative in Uganda, expressed concern about the situation.

“This mysterious disease has to be investigated and samples have to be tested. We couldn’t rule out any of the viral hemorrhagic fevers and the investigations will continue,” Yonas said. “And we look forward of the Tanzanian government collaborating as per the International health regulations to address this issue.”

Also Read- Zomato Gold is Still Proving to be a Bone of Contention, Says NRAI Executive

Countries near Congo continue to be on high alert for any new cases of Ebola, with strict adherence to control guidelines set by the WHO. (VOA)