London, Sep 17 :
Experts at England’s University of Oxford Wednesday launched clinical trials of a vaccine against the Ebola virus, which has killed more than half of the over 4,700 people affected in West Africa.
The first of some 60 volunteers received a dose containing a small part of the genetic material of the virus, ensuring they will not catch the disease, according to Oxford’s Jenner Institute, which heads the experiment.
The severity of the outbreak of Ebola in Africa has forced to accelerate experiments so that a vaccine may be available as soon as possible.
If the tests are successful, the vaccine is expected to be used to immunise healthcare workers in areas worst-hit by the disease.
Jenner Institute Director Adrian Hill said that this was an outstanding example of how a vaccine could be found and tested quickly through international cooperation.
Blood tests on the volunteers will show the extent of the immune response of the body to the vaccine in between two to four weeks.
The vaccine is being developed by GlaxoSmithKline and the US National Institute of Health, with funding from the UK Medical Research Council and the UK Department for International Cooperation.
The study of the Oxford experts will focus on analysing the immune response to the vaccine and its side effects.
The tests were made public after US President Barack Obama on Tuesday broadened his strategy against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa by announcing the dispatch of some 3,000 military personnel to provide logistical support to local authorities.
The World Health Organisation said last week Ebola had killed more than 2,400 people out of 4,784 cases in West Africa.
Ebola, which is transmitted through contact with blood and bodily fluids of infected persons or animals, causes severe bleeding and can have a mortality rate of 90 percent.