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Liberia announces second Ebola death as new outbreak spreads – Two new trials of vaccines begin in Europe, Africa

health workers wash their hands after taking a blood specimen from a child to test for the Ebola virus in a area where a 17-year old boy died from the virus on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia

health workers wash their hands after taking a blood specimen from a child to test for the Ebola virus in a area where a 17-year old boy died from the virus on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia

MONROVIA: Liberia said yesterday a second patient had died in a resurgence of the Ebola virus and the outbreak had spread to its capital city. The sixth confirmed case since the virus re-emerged at the end of June was a healthcare worker in Monrovia, chief medical officer Francis Karteh said on state radio. “Now we have four cases in (treatment).

We have six confirmed cases in Liberia-two are already dead,” he said. The latest cluster of infections emerged in a village near the international airport in the coastal county of Margibi, when a 17-year-old boy tested positive for Ebola after his death. “Ebola is no longer confined to Margibi County.

A case has been reported in Monrovia, but has been reported expired,” Karteh said. “The case was carried in a critical condition to the (Ebola treatment unit) and later died.” The man was being monitored as a known contact of one of the previous cases, but hid his illness from the authorities by taking medication to bring down his temperature, Karteh said.

He warned that efforts to contain the outbreak were being hampered by people not admitting they’d had contact with Ebola patients. “We need to be open. We need to be honest to ourselves. It is through honesty that we can stop this disease... If you are to go to a general clinic with a fever you need to tell the healthcare worker that you are a contact,” he said. The world’s worst Ebola outbreak has killed more than 11,250 people in west Africa, brought fragile health care systems to their knees, rolled back economic gains and sent investors fleeing.

The epidemic spread to Liberia from Guinea in March 2014, killing more than 4,800 Liberians before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the country free of transmission on May 9 this year. Tests on the 17-year-old showed the variant which killed him was genetically similar to the 2014 outbreak.

Battling the outbreak
The WHO said this showed that the resurgence of the disease was unlikely to be due to the virus being reintroduced from Sierra Leone, which is also battling the outbreak, or Guinea. New infections in Sierra Leone and Guinea have fallen dramatically, although the two countries are still reporting more than 20 new cases each week between them. Meanwhile, two new Ebola vaccine trials began yesterday with volunteers in Britain, France and Senegal getting “prime-boost” immunisations developed by Bavarian Nordic, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson. The midstage, or Phase II, trials are designed primarily to test the vaccines’ safety, but will also assess whether they provoke an immune response against the deadly virus.

The development of the prime-boost and other vaccines was accelerated in response to vast outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa, where at least 11,200 people have died so far in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. “The current Ebola outbreak has reinforced that speed of response is crucial,” said Egeruan Babatunde Imoukhuede, who is coordinating one of the trials in Senegal. “Outbreak diseases spread quickly, so any vaccination approach must be able to keep up.” Data from the World Health Organization show there were 30 confirmed cases of Ebola in West Africa in the week to July 5. In Liberia, which had been declared Ebola-free in May, a sixth new case was confirmed on Tuesday in what health officials fear is a new wave of the outbreak.

Preventing infection
While the number of Ebola cases has dropped sharply in recent months, researchers said the flare-up in Liberia underlines the need to push ahead with developing potential vaccines that may help control this and future outbreaks. The trial of the Bavarian Nordic and J&J prime-boost combination initially aims to recruit more than 600 healthy adult volunteers in Britain and France.

Bavarian said it hoped to launch another later phase of this trial in Africa later this year involving 1,200 volunteers, but other large clinical trials have recently been thwarted by the drop in case numbers. Previously planned trials of GSK, Merck and J&J shots in West Africa have been struggling to recruit volunteers with enough exposure to Ebola to prove whether their vaccines are doing the job and preventing infection.

The second trial will be conducted in Senegal and uses two vaccines tested first in people at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and being developed in a partnership with GSK. The first, based on a chimpanzee adenovirus, is designed to stimulate, or prime, an initial immune response, while the second is designed to boost that response. Each vaccine is based on genetically modifying safe viruses to carry just one part of the Ebola virus that will stimulate the body’s immune system. Researchers stressed that none of the shots contains any live Ebola virus.— Agencies

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This article was published on 15/07/2015