Recently, a study was published from the University of Louisiana Lafayette that looked at how effective the ebola vaccine could be on chimpanzees. The study included 10 captive chimpanzees and from these 6 were given the drug orally and the other 4 were injected with the vaccine. Dr. Peter Walsh, the lead researcher from the University of Cambridge, said that they “found the vaccine gave a very robust immune response and didn’t cause any health complications.” This trial was a very small trial, but that was partially due to a ban being implemented in the US in 2015 against using chimpanzees in biomedical research so conducting trials in many countries is difficult.
Since the ebola vaccine recently showed to be highly effective, there is a lot of discussion on protecting our closest relatives. A lot of researchers believe that the vaccine could also greatly help gorillas since chimps or gorillas have a 90-98% chance of dying once they are infected with the virus. However, as mentioned earlier, there is a lot of difficulty trying to study that effect since gorilla research has been banned in many areas. Also, there is a lot of concern regarding how one would implement a vaccination programme that would be effective, safe, and affordable.
While the ebola situation is currently calm in many parts of Africa that suffered heavily during the 2014 outbreak, researchers are trying to think of possible interventions in order to prevent and also intervene if another outbreak occurs. We’ll see what changes occur within these next few months regarding chimps and vaccines!
--Jeanette Rios (‘18)