OCT 14, 2019 5:48 AM PDT

This is How Your Immune System Responds to Ebola Vaccination

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Vaccines to prevent Ebola are still in their infancy, with experimental-only versions being used only in the most dire of instances. In a new study, scientists question the vaccine’s long-term effectiveness and its impact on the immune system. They also ask: how does the immune response of vaccinated individuals compare with responses of actual Ebola survivors?

The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976, and the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa was the “largest and most complex Ebola outbreak” since the pathogen’s unearthing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The infection causes a hemorrhagic fever, meaning it impacts the body’s blood vessels and other organs. The WHO estimates that those infected with the Ebola virus have a 50-50 chance of survival.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease explains that while there are currently no vaccines officially licensed to prevent Ebola, an experimental vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, has been administered to high-risk individuals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and during clinical trials in West Africa. The vaccine was made by delivering an Ebola protein on the back of a harmless virus, stimulating the immune response to Ebola without actually inducing an infection.

The vaccine is difficult to make and often needed in rural locations that are difficult to reach. Currently, the vaccine is usually only given to people in close contact with people who are already infected with Ebola. Researchers from the present study recognized the need to refine the vaccine, tailor it to specific Ebola strains, and understand what needs to change or stay the same for the vaccine to be maximally effective.

Researchers analyzed blood samples from six individuals who had received the Ebola vaccine within the past year. They focused on B cell activity as part of the induced immune response, as these are the immune cells responsible for producing antibodies, and antibodies are responsible for writing the body’s immune memory.

The analysis zeroed in on two specific antibodies, and researchers learned everything they could about them: their lineage, their molecule makeup, and their binding habits. Antibodies neutralize viruses by binding components of their outer membrane, called glycoproteins. Researchers looked specifically at how and where the antibodies bound the Ebola glycoprotein and how that binding neutralized the Ebola virus so well.

They found that the two antibodies bound the glycoprotein on sites associated with its vulnerability, and they bound in a unique way from other antibodies. Additionally, this binding matched the way antibodies bound glycoproteins in samples from actual Ebola survivors.

The current results are promising, but scientists still have a lot of questions to answer on their search for the optimized Ebola vaccine. Next, scientists want to know if the two antibodies observed in the study will be effective against all types of Ebola species.

Sources: Weizmann Institute of Science, Nature Medicine

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
MAR 23, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Top 5 Candidates for Coronavirus Vaccine Around the World
MAR 23, 2020
Top 5 Candidates for Coronavirus Vaccine Around the World
It’s easy to complain about the role of big pharma in medicine-making and the hassle of dealing with protective pa ...
APR 02, 2020
Immunology
Potential New COVID-19 Vaccine is Delivered by Patch
APR 02, 2020
Potential New COVID-19 Vaccine is Delivered by Patch
The coronavirus pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 is demanding the world's immediate attention.
APR 06, 2020
Immunology
Clearing the Path for Dendritic Cells to Eliminate Tumors
APR 06, 2020
Clearing the Path for Dendritic Cells to Eliminate Tumors
  Dendritic cells are the sentinels of the immune system and use their “tree-like” projections to prese ...
APR 20, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Worst COVID-19 Cases May be Caused by Immune Cell Overactivity
APR 20, 2020
Worst COVID-19 Cases May be Caused by Immune Cell Overactivity
The SARS-CoV-2 virus causea huge range of symptoms, and researchers are learning more about the worst cases, which may h ...
MAY 12, 2020
Immunology
Disabling Genes in Immune Cells Prevents Obesity
MAY 12, 2020
Disabling Genes in Immune Cells Prevents Obesity
Obesity is a $1.7 trillion problem in the United States — a value almost 10% of the nation’s gross domestic ...
JUN 16, 2020
Immunology
Stronger Skeletal Muscles May Reflect A Sturdy Immune System
JUN 16, 2020
Stronger Skeletal Muscles May Reflect A Sturdy Immune System
Individuals struggling to recover from chronic infections and cancer usually experience reduced immune strength and weig ...
Loading Comments...