Globally, two concurrent Marburg virus outbreaks in Africa have alarmed health experts. Marburg is a close cousin to Ebola and kills up to ninety percent of those it infects. The virus is spread through contact with an infected person or surfaces they have touched, and while there are no treatments or vaccines, some candidates have had promising results in Phase 1 clinical trials.
The first outbreak started in Tanzania in East Africa and experts believe it is now under control, with only two people still in quarantine. The second outbreak occurred in Equatorial Guinea on the west coast, and the World Heath Organization (WHO) has expressed concern that not all cases are being reported. There is the fear of a wider spread than originally suspected in Equatorial Guinea.
In Tanzania, five people have died, including a healthcare worker. The virus has an incubation period of 21 days and so the outbreak is still considered active in the country. It was also determined that better tracking is likely resulting in the perceived increase in Marburg cases. As part of response to the Covid-19 pandemic, countries across Africa increased their PCR testing capacity and infectious disease surveillance.
The Sabin Vaccine Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, has furthered a Marburg vaccine candidate that showed immune response and safety in Phase 1 clinical trials. The institute have 600 doses ready to use and plans for 8,000 by the end of the year. The WHO has yet to officially announce any plans for a trial, but would need transport of doses, principal investigator from the outbreak country, legal agreements and regulatory approval.
Dr. Nancy Sullivan, director of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories at Boston University, believes climate change may be driving the increase in cases – with humans impinging on virus reservoirs. Whilst Dr. John Amuasi, head of the global health department at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, noted that a better response to research is necessary, such as having ready-to-ship stockpiles and researchers equipped to operate without putting additional strain on a health system.
The Sabin Vaccine Institute is dedicated to developing safe, effective and accessible vaccines to protect against existing and emerging diseases that threatens the world’s population. Through research, advocacy and partnerships, it helps the develop and deliver vaccine products to help create a healthier tomorrow.
Dr. Nancy Sullivan is an American scientific researcher. After gaining her PhD from Brown University, she spent many years working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Her vaccine candidate furthest along in development, shows safety and immune response in Phase 1 clinical trials, and the Sabin Vaccine Institute is continuing the testing process.