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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ebola Virus: Immune Mechanisms of Protection and Vaccine Development

  • Author(s): Nyamathi, AM
  • Fahey, JL
  • Sands, H
  • Casillas, AM
  • et al.

Vaccination is one of our most powerful antiviral strategies. Despite the emergence of deadly viruses such as Ebola virus, vaccination efforts have focused mainly on childhood communicable diseases. Although Ebola virus was once believed to be limited to isolated outbreaks in distant lands, forces of globalization potentiate outbreaks anywhere in the world through incidental transmission. Moreover, since this virus has already been transformed into weapongrade material, the potential exists for it to be used as a biological weapon with catastrophic consequences for any population vulnerable to attack. Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) is a syndrome that can rapidly lead to death within days of symptom onset. The disease directly affects the immune system and vascular bed, with correspondingly high mortality rates. Patients with severe disease produce dangerously high levels of inflammatory cytokines, which destroy normal tissue and microcirculation, leading to profound capillary leakage, renal failure, and disseminated intravascular coagulation. Vaccine development has been fraught with obstacles, primarily of a biosafety nature. Case reports of acutely ill patients with EHF showing improvement with the transfusion of convalescent plasma are at odds with animal studies demonstrating further viral replication with the same treatment. Using mRNA extracted from bone marrow of Ebola survivors, human monoclonal antibodies against Ebola virus surface protein have been experimentally produced and now raise the hope for the development of a safe vaccine. © 2003, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.

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