Make mine a double

Good news arrived today on two fronts in the vaccines-vs-disease war.

An Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo started a little over a year ago, and health-care workers continue to struggle with widespread misunderstanding of the disease and distrust of government agencies. Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever caused by a virus, and mortality rates can be over 70%. The current outbreak was classified as a public health emergency last month, with about 2800 people infected and over 1800 dead.

Last November a clinical trial kicked off with four experimental treatments. Two of them, both antibody-based, show success rates so promising that the World Health Organization and the DRC government agreed last week that they should be offered to all patients. Between 6% and 11% of patients receiving one of these two drugs died, compared to 24% to 33% receiving one of the other two drugs in the trial.

For another disease which occurs globally, the first dosing of a chlamydia vaccine in healthy women showed positive safety and efficacy results. The early-phase trial included 35 women who received either the active vaccine or a placebo. All patients receiving the vaccine showed an immune response, compared to none who received the placebo. Chlamydia has been difficult to combat because the bacterium lives and replicates inside cervical cells in women, and specific T-helper type 1 immune cells are needed to fight it.

These results are early and don’t prove effectiveness yet. Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial disease in the world, and condoms are still the best known protection. At its worst (about 1 out of 6 cases) chlamydia results in pelvic inflammatory disease, increasing longterm risk of ectopic pregnancy and infertility.

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