Knoxville doctor looking for participants to test Ebola vaccine

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – An Ebola vaccine will be tested at a clinical research facility in Knoxville as President Obama urges Congress to approve his request for $6.2 billion in emergency spending against the outbreak.

President Obama toured the National Institutes of Health in Maryland Tuesday and told the media it is important to continue the Ebola-fighting research in the effort to confront Ebola in West Africa and to protect the United States against the spread of the deadly virus.

Dr. William Smith, who is leading the Ebola vaccine testing in Knoxville, says the vaccine is actually made from a virus found in cows and only contains a small piece of protein from the Ebola virus. He says there’s no risk of actually getting Ebola and is still asking for more people to participate in the study.

Dr. William Smith
Dr. William Smith

Dr. Smith, who works for the New Orleans Center for Clinical Research which moved to Knoxville after Hurricane Katrina, has tested plague and small pox vaccines in the past.

He says researchers’ success is a reason the center has been selected as one of only six sites in the country to test the Ebola vaccine.

“We are really excited about being able to do something to help fight this epidemic,” said Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith says the first tests of the vaccine were done at Walter Reed hospital near Washington, DC.

Those tests have shown a highly concentrated version of the vaccine has been successful in creating antibodies to fight the virus.

Dr. Smith emphasizes the vaccine puts no one at risk of getting Ebola because the vaccine is made to only trick the immune system by using a virus found in cows instead.

“Taking a protein out of that virus and substituting a piece of a glycoprotein from the Ebola virus to fool the immune system to thinking it has been exposed to Ebola when actually it has not,” said Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith is testing in Knoxville the effectiveness of lower concentrated vaccines because the higher doses are much more expensive.

“The smallest amount you can use will allow you to vaccinate a larger number of people when they take this vaccine to Africa to a population that’s at risk,” said Dr. Smith.

If lower concentrations work and further testing proves to be successful in creating antibodies, the vaccine could be used in Africa by February to help put an end to the Ebola epidemic.

“We are really taking an active role in trying to help in the fight against Ebola.

In one day 30 people have signed up to participate. Dr. Smith still needs 70 more people to be involved in the testing. If you would like to participate in the study, call 865-305-3784.

Dr. Smith says he is looking for healthy adults and anyone interested will be screened. The actual testing and injections will start on December 15.

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