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New Study Says Two Related Viruses May be Treated With the Same Vaccine

The Marburg and Ebola viruses have caused fatal outbreaks in Africa for the past four years. A recent study shows a vaccine from a harmless virus called Vesicular Stomatitis Virus, or VSV, which has been effective against Marburg in animal testing, may be used to treat Ebola. VOA's Melinda Smith narrates.

Marburg and Ebola are related diseases caused by a family of viruses called filoviruses, which trigger hemmorrhagic fever, organ failure and shock.

Fifty to 90 percent of Africans infected with either of these viruses have died.

A study by a group of researchers from the U.S., Canada, and developing countries indicates the vaccine from the Vesicular Stomatitis Virus -- VSV -- may be used to treat a relative of the Marburg virus called Ebola.

Dr. Peter Jahrling, Chief Scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland said he was surprised at the results.

"One aspect of this study that we were surprised at was that the vaccine was protective even after exposure to the disease. Most vaccines have to be administered weeks to months before exposure as in the childhood vaccines that we all receive. But this vaccine actually protected after the animals had been exposed to Marburg."

Both viruses can be transmitted by close contact through sex. People working with corpses can be infected through abrasions. There are also other ways the viruses are transmitted.

Dr. Brigitte Vasset, from the organization Doctors Without Borders based in Paris, explains the transmission. "So it's not jumping on you, if I am here I will not get it from you. But if I'm starting to touch any kind of your body fluids and I have a cut, I can get it."

Dr. Jahrling says VSV isn't the only vaccine that might work against Marburg and Ebola. "There are other vaccines besides the VSV platform, probably the most promising is the one that's based on Adenovirospectors that were developed here at NIH at the vaccine research center. Adenoviruses are used for other viral diseases including AIDS and are in an advanced clinical trial, so there's reason to believe that the adenovirospector is as perhaps promising as the VSV."

Researchers say there is no cure for either disease and more safety tests are needed before a human vaccine can be developed.