The co-investigator for the Ebola Vaccine Study program in Liberia Dr. Stephen Kennedy has disclosed that about 1,500 Ebola Survivors participated in the study launched last year in the country.
He said during the heat of the deadly Ebola outbreak in Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and authorities of the Ministry of Health, including former Minister Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale wrote the United States Government for assistance in containing spread of the virus, adding that’s how the Partnership for Research on Ebola Virus in Liberia or PREVAIL, came about as a Liberia-U.S. Joint Clinical Research Partnership.
Dr. Kennedy said PREVAIL commenced the clinical trial with approval by the U.S. drugs administration and the Liberia Medicines & Health Products Regulatory Authority complimented by other studies. Addressing reporters Thursday, March 10, at the Ministry of Information on Capitol Hill, he said the study met international standards before coming here, adding Liberia was not the first testing ground for the study as the process went through many phases in several continents around the world before it was brought to Liberia.
Dr. Kennedy added the study was conducted in various communities across Monrovia where Ebola survivors reside. “We engage the public about the study because we wanted transparency in the entire process”, he explained noting that initially, the process started with a small group of people to gain experience before it was extended to three months, which allowed about 1,500 persons to enroll in the study.
He congratulated the 1,500 participants who took up their time to stand in line to be tested despite all the misconceptions about the study.
“We can say with pride and joy that those two vaccines that were used in this country were safe, based upon the data we received, we can now say those two vaccines were for the protection of our people”, Dr. Kennedy said.
According to him, out of the 1,500 participants, 35 percent was women, something which indicates that the vaccine works in both men and women, and that 95 of the participants came with pre-existing medical conditions, which affected their ability to withstand the vaccine.
For her part, Dr. Libby Higgs of PREVAIL said the coming of ZMapp in Liberia and other countries was to adequately test people infected with the virus to establish whether they could be healed. Dr. Higgs said ZMapp study was designed to enroll 200 patients, but only 72 were enrolled.
She pointed out that Zmapp is an investigational Ebola treatment developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., is a “cocktail” of three different proteins, called monoclonal antibodies. The antibodies are produced in tobacco plants specifically bioengineered to produce large quantities of the proteins.
She added ZMapp was administered under emergency to Ebola-infected patients in Africa, the United States, and Western Europe. A clinical trial was conducted to examine the safety and efficacy of ZMapp launched in March 2015 in the U.S., Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, respectively.
Meanwhile the Principal investigator of the Natural History Study, Dr. MasokaFallah, said preliminary findings from the study presented in February 2016 indicate that both Ebola survivors and their close contacts have a high burden of illness. However, the prevalence of eye, musculoskeletal, and neurological complications was greater among the individuals who survived Ebola virus disease.
Dr. Masoka said 38 percent of the 97 male survivors who provided one or more semen samples for analysis had Ebola detected in their semen at least once. In one case, Ebola was detected in participant’s semen sample 18 months after he had EVD symptoms.
He added that In a subset of 126 contacts, who reported sexual activity with a survivor, only four percent reported regular condom use, raising concerns about potential sexual transmission of EVD. However, no cases of sexual transmission have been detected in this study thus far.
By Lewis S. TehEdited by Jonathan Browne