The University of Oxford are beginning the first human trials of an Ebola vaccine on 26 volunteers, using the same technology as the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. ChAdOxl biEBOV is being tested for safety and immunogenicity, and may protect against multiple species of the virus.

Though effective vaccines against Ebola have been developed in recent years, experts warn that these have been approved for only one out of the four species of the Ebola virus. “There are three other important species of Ebola virus out there that these vaccines aren’t approved to prevent,” said Dr Daniel Jenkin, principal investigator of the trial at the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford. “This disease can be caused by several different species of virus and each of them may require an immune response.”

The Ebola vaccines currently available are approved against the Zaire species of Ebola, responsible for many outbreaks of the virus and the species with the highest mortality rate.

Ebola is a viral hemorrhagic fever with symptoms beginning between two days and three weeks after infection. The first symptoms usually include fever, sore throat, muscle pain and headaches, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash and decreased liver and kidney function, where some begin to bleed internally and externally. The disease kills an average of 50% of those infected.

The Oxford vaccine is based on the ChAdOxl virus, which is a weakened version of a common cold virus, genetically modified so that it cannot replicate in humans. ChAdOx technology has been in development for several years. As a result of the success of the AstraZeneca vaccine, scientists are hopeful that the vaccine technology will be effective against other conditions including malaria, HIV, cancers including prostate cancers, and shingles.