CMV-based vaccine could help eliminate the threat of Ebola from apes

The African ape population has played a key role in the enduring threat posed by ebolavirus. Now a group of investigators say they have some new animal data that suggest a CMV-based vaccine could spark the spread of a protective "disseminating" virus that may prevent the threat in the first place.

Ebolavirus under an electron microscope--Courtesy of CDC

Michael Jarvis at Plymouth University says this CMV vaccine is particularly promising, as it may protect remote ape populations that would be all but impossible to vaccinate individually. A new animal study significantly concludes that the vaccine offers potentially durable protection against ebolavirus, which could stop an outbreak in humans before it happens.

"We must walk before we can run, but this study provided a little skip," said Jarvis, corresponding author on the study from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. "However, this disseminating approach does potentially provide a workable solution to a currently intractable problem of achieving high vaccine coverage in inaccessible ape populations. Given the impact of ebolavirus on African ape numbers in the wild, and the role of apes as a route of ebolavirus transmission to humans via the bush meat trade, such a vaccine would be a win-win for humans and wild apes alike."

The spread of Ebola in Africa has killed thousands, spurring a moment of global hysteria that has been steadily evaporating as the outbreak has been gradually curtailed. As the crisis spurred headlines around the world, though, the intense spotlight illuminated a string of new therapies that could be used against Ebola, some of which are being studied now in Africa.

The study will be published March 25 in Vaccine.

- here's the release