A Nose Spray Vaccine That Protects Against Ebola? It Could Happen
As I assume every American has heard by now, the Ebola virus is amongst us for the first time in almost 20 years, and it's semi-terrifying. But in addition to the relative difficulty in catching Ebola and the success of travel restrictions and quarantines in fighting it, more good news is emerging: Scientists have developed a nose spray vaccine that protects against Ebola in monkeys.
Researchers at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Texas-Austin have apparently been working on their Ebola vaccine for seven years now, largely unnoticed until this recent outbreak. It's delivered via nose spray, and works by exposing patients to a variant of the common cold virus genetically modified to carry a bit of Ebola DNA. After being absorbed into the lining of the nose and lungs, the patient's immune system responds to the Ebola nose spray vaccine by developing antibodies than can later protect it against real Ebola infection. This vaccine has worked well in monkeys, and is likely to work well in humans — if only the research team can find funding to continue its project.
Real scientists have assured the American public that Ebola is hard to catch unless you touch the bodily fluids of an infected person but, as a resident of a crowded city often covered with vomit and worse, the odds of catching Ebola are low but not zero. Especially for health workers who serve an important public safety purpose by caring for Ebola patients (but who are in a position to come in close contact with their infectious bodily fluids), the Ebola nose spray vaccine could prove a boon.
That said, it might be only a matter of time until the vaccine skeptics come out of the Internet woodwork to cast unreasonable doubt on plans to develop the Ebola vaccine further. If private industry funds the vaccine, conspiracy theorists could claim that Big Pharma is poisoning its own customers for financial gain, if history is any indication.
So hold onto your science, friends: If an Ebola vaccine becomes widely available, you should consider it. In the meantime, get a flu shot for good measure. And run, don't walk, away from anyone offering ridiculous, unproven homeopathic remedies for Ebola.