The US government will begin testing an experimental Ebola vaccine on people as early as September, the National Institutes of Health announced Thursday.
The NIH and the Food and Drug Administration are working together to get the vaccine to human trials as soon as possible, according to CNN. Previous studies showed the vaccine was able to protect monkeys from Ebola.
However, a vaccine won’t be available for public use until at least a year, Dr. Thomas Friedan, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday.
There is currently no known cure for Ebola. The disease kills about 90 percent of its victims. The latest outbreak has already caused 729 deaths in West Africa.
The vaccine is not the only promising method experts are looking into to combat the spread of the disease. A group at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston is developing a series of treatments that have been shown to protect animals against Ebola in a laboratory setting.
Without a vaccine, health workers battling the outbreak in West Africa are left with limited options to stop the disease from spreading. Workers must identify victims, put them in quarantine, and then try to locate all the people who the victims could have previously infected.
With previous, smaller Ebola outbreaks, the spread of the disease was halted by effective isolation of victims.
But the current outbreak in West Africa continues to spread because it crosses nebulous cross-country borders, weak healthcare systems, and depleting resources, said Thomas Geisbert, the principal investigator of the University of Texas study, said in an interview with CNN.
“They are having the virus occur simultaneously across a very large geographic area in different locations all at the same time. And that’s very difficult to contain because again the organizations with the expertise in controlling these outbreaks, their resources are really spread thin.’’
On Thursday CNN reported that two American charity workers infected with Ebola are being transferred to the US from West Africa for treatment. It will be the first time a patient with Ebola will be treated in the US.