Researchers Rush to Test Vaccines for Marburg Virus Outbreak


After Equatorial Guinea confirmed its first Marburg virus disease outbreak on February 13, 2023, the health officials around the world are rushing to test whether experimental vaccines can protect against a deadly disease. The virus has similarities to Ebola in its hemorrhagic fever symptoms. It has a casualty pace of up to 88%.

Yesterday, an urgent meeting was called by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the possibility of testing various stage-of-development Marburg vaccines. However, they claim that a successful trial is unlikely because the outbreak could be ended prior to the administration of a single vaccine dose by other control measures like quarantine.

At the WHO meeting, epidemiologist John Edmunds from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said that he cannot emphasize enough the need for speed.

The outbreak is occurring in the province of Kie-Ntem, which borders Cameroon and Gabon, in the north of Equatorial Guinea. 25 suspected cases have been linked to 9 deaths, with the first known case occurring in early January. Edmunds tells Nature that this makes it bigger than a lot of the 16 Marburg outbreaks that have been found before. After effective interventions have been implemented, outbreaks tend to be small and pass quickly.

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The exceptions are the cases occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1998 to 2000 and was linked to 154 cases and 128 deaths, as well as an epidemic that occurred in Angola from 2004 to 2005 and resulted in 227 deaths out of 252 cases that were reported.

A candidate vaccine developed by the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington DC, utilizes a modified chimpanzee adenovirus to transmit instructions to cells for the production of a Marburg virus protein. On the other hand, a candidate vaccine developed by Janssen in Beerse, Belgium, utilizes the human adenovirus that was the foundation for the successful COVID-19 vaccine developed by the company.

Candidates developed by Public Health Vaccines (PHV) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAIVI) in New York City, and Auro Vaccines in Pearl River, New York, are based on weaker forms of the vesicular stomatitis virus, which serves as the vector in the first Ebola vaccine that has been approved.

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