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Researchers Making Progress on Ebola Vaccine

Aired November 29, 2000 - 2:38 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Doctors have not been able to come up with a cure for the deadly Ebola virus, but now they do have a new weapon in that battle against the killer illness and a new army to help them fight it: monkeys.

Here's CNN's Christy Feig.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ebola's deadly power most recently hit northern Uganda, killing 145 in one town. So far, the virus has killed over 800 people worldwide since it first appeared in 1976.

There is nothing doctors can do to prevent or treat those infected. Now researchers at the National Institutes of Health say there may be hope.

DR. GARY NABEL, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: We found that it's possible to protect against the lethal effects of the Ebola virus in a primate model. By vaccinating animals ahead of time against Ebola virus, we were able to prevent them from dying from the infection.

FEIG (on camera): Nabel and his colleagues tested the vaccine in four monkeys. They all survived after being infected. Four other monkeys who didn't get the vaccine died.

(voice-over): The two-part vaccine uses some of the DNA of the virus to prime the immune system, then a weakened form of a common cold virus as a booster.

NABEL: By presenting those parts of the virus to the immune system, we activate it, we alert it to the possibility that a virus might be coming, and then the immune system can respond more rapidly to the actual virus when it sees it.

FEIG: Next step: more clinical trials, eventually with health care workers in the countries most often hit to see if they are protected in the next outbreak.

It will take three years or more to know if this is an effective and safe vaccine for humans, and if it does work, doctors hope they can experiment to see if the vaccine can help treat patients who are already infected.

Christy Feig, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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