SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Bay Area researchers are gearing up to help analyze a deadly Ebola virus that has killed hundreds in Western Africa, while the government says an experimental vaccine is in the works.
Dr. Charles Chiu, Prrofessor of Laboratory Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco said Friday his lab is expecting a shipment of non-infectious samples of the current Ebola outbreak to analyze and find the genetic sequence of the strain.
Chiu said the results of the UCSF analyses will lead to better ways to diagnose and treat the disease. The research will also lead to better understanding of how Ebola viruses can mutate and evolve over time.
The World Health Organization on Thursday said this strain of the disease, which has a 90 percent fatality rate – has killed more than 700 people. It is the deadliest Ebola outbreak ever recorded. There is currently no cure.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Ebola viruses are animal-borne, most likely from bats, and human transmission occurs through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person.
Meanwhile, the U.S. National Institutes of Health has announced it will begin testing an experimental Ebola vaccine targeted for a September 2015 clinical trial.
Chiu noted while there have been a handful of vaccines that have shown to prevent Ebola in monkeys given a lethal dose of the virus, up to now researchers haven’t gone beyond the initial animal testing. “There has been a big gap between the development of effective vaccines and the ability to get them to patients or potential patients in Africa where it is most needed.”
“There really is no business model, there has not been any financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to actually bring theses vaccines through the costly human and clinical trials needed to get approval.”
The CDC has warned against any non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone due to the Ebola epidemic.
Chiu agrees with experts who say the U.S. health care system is prepared for any Ebola outbreak and says while it’s possible for an Ebola patient to fly to the U.S., the probability of sustained transmission in North America is extremely low.