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DNA Vaccine for Ebola Enters Safety Trial
By Edward R. Winstead

Electron micrograph of Ebola virus.

A clinical trial is underway in the United States to test the safety of a new “DNA vaccine” against the Ebola virus, which is highly contagious and kills 90 percent of the people it infects, most of whom live in Africa.

The vaccine contains inactivated and modified genes from the Ebola virus but no infectious material, according to officials at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, which is administering the trial.

The virus causes severe internal bleeding in people that leads rapidly to death. The first Ebola epidemic occurred in 1976 in the Republic of Congo, then Zaire, and outbreaks have been increasing in recent years. The World Health Organization reported 11 new cases in that country earlier this month.

At least one person has received an injection of the vaccine, and the trial will eventually include 27 volunteers. Volunteers will receive three injections over two months and be followed for a year.

If the vaccine proves safe and effective it could potentially be used to eliminate outbreaks in Africa, and be used in the event of a bioterrorist attack involving the virus.

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