Scientists based at St George’s, University of London, have joined an international consortium to conduct a clinical trial to test an Ebola vaccine in Africa.

The first results are projected to be available just a few weeks after the first vaccination, enabling a decision to be made about whether the vaccine can be introduced into affected West African communities.

Professor Sanjeev Krishna, of St George’s University of London’s Institute for Infection and Immunity, said: “We know how urgent it is for an effective vaccine for humans to be tested, so we can help to stop the horrifying impact of this deadly disease.

“It is a measure of the global need, as well as the responsiveness of our collaborative group, that this clinical trial is forging ahead so speedily with the first volunteers recruited in Gabon in November.”

The vaccine is one of two being examined as a ‘candidate’ option by the World Health Organisation to identify urgently a vaccine to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The disease has already claimed the lives of more than 4,500 people.The consortium is examining an Ebola vaccine that has shown significant promise in animal studies, but has not yet been approved for use in humans.

The clinical trial will be led by colleagues at University of Tübingen in Germany, coordinated by Professor Peter Kremsner with their partner institute CERMEL in Lambaréné, Gabon.Professor Krishna will act as a scientific advisor to these studies in the Gabon and is also affiliated with the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Tübingen. He has also carried out collaborative work for many years in Lambaréné.

He was among a consortium of experts convened by the WHO in August 2014 in Geneva to discuss solutions and strategies for combatting the current Ebola crisis.The clinical trial will investigate the candidate vaccine called VSVΔG-ZEBOV, produced by the American firm NewLink Genetics. Data from animal studies to date show that animals vaccinated with VSVΔG-ZEBOV are protected against infection with Ebola. Following this success, further studies in humans are warranted to establish a dosage which is safe and well tolerated, whilst simultaneously assessing immunogenicity.