Trials to find Ebola vaccine halted as infection rates show major fall

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An Oxford-lead clinical trial testing a new Ebola treatment has been stopped following a dramatic fall in the number of new cases of the disease.

The latest information from the World Health Organisation shows that there were only four new cases of Ebola in Liberia in the week ending 25th January.

Due to the low number of new cases, Chimerix, the pharmaceutical company who were running the trials, judged that it would be unlikely that enough patients would be enrolled onto the trial scheme of anti-viral treatment brincidofovir to yield a satisfactory result.

University professor Ian Hornby, leader of the trials, said: “The past weeks have brought the extremely positive news that Ebola infections are falling across West Africa, including in Liberia where our trial of brincidofovir was based.

We’re delighted that infections are falling, but fewer patients makes it more difficult to carry out the robust scientific studies needed to ensure a new treatment will be safe and effective.”

The trials, which were led by the University of Oxford and funded by the Wellcome Trust were being undertaken at Médicins Sans Frontières’ Ebola management centre in Monrovia, Liberia.

Trials of the experimental drug brincidofovir had been running at the centre since early January.

Dr Stephen Kennedy of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation said: “With the current stride towards zero case in Liberia, there are now fewer cases to test therapeutic agents. There are now efforts in place to decommission many of the existing Ebola treatment units. Therefore, the ability to assess the potential of a therapeutic agent among positive cases remains a significant challenge. Accordingly, the scientific community will move on without any clear evidence regarding the role of brincidofovir in the management of Ebola.”

The trials of brincidofovir were part of a £3.2million project that aims to establish clinical trials at existing Ebola treatment centres. Patients could volunteer to receive a two-week course of the drug.

The money was put forward by the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical research charity committed to improving health across the globe.

Although this particular trial has ended, the project will continue to support the testing of other possible treatments for the Ebola virus.

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