A former Huntingdon schoolboy who is part of a frontline team working on the fight against the Ebola virus has been vaccinated against the disease as part of a “milestone” trial.
Professor Miles Carroll, who is head of Research Microbiology Services for Public Health England (PHE), is working with a European team in Southampton, but has just spent two weeks in Guinea testing the VSV-EBOV vaccine, which will now enter its third and final stage before potentially being made available worldwide.
Prof Carroll described it as a “significant milestone” and a “real step forward in the development” of what will be the first vaccine against the disease which has already killed 9,807 people, including 500 health workers, in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“I volunteered to be vaccinated in the trial to help show the local population the vaccine is safe, and with the help and expertise of my Public Health England colleagues in the UK we have constructed a lab in Guinea to assist with processing blood samples from the trial.”
Prof Carroll, 49, who is married with three children, aged 17, 18, and six, grew up on the Oxmoor and attended Huntingdon County Junior School and Hinchingbrooke School.
“Luckily, I did well there thanks to fantastic teaching, especially the sciences. I still remember my biology teachers. I am indebted to them for the time and energy they invested in me and my peers.
“The UK needs a new cadre of highly skilled and able scientists to continue to compete at an international level.”
Prof Carroll, who lives in Hermitage, Berkshire, was vaccinated along with dignitaries, including the Minister of Health in Guinea and the head of the Guinea Ebola Task Force. He says the vaccination was painless and, so far, he had not experienced any fever, only some reddening and tenderness around the vaccination site. Prof Carroll was also vaccinated six months ago as part of the Oxford Phase 1 trial and believes he is the only person to have this combination of vaccines.
There has been progress in the fight against Ebola in Liberia, with no new cases for two weeks and experts believe the disease is under control, but it is still sweeping Sierra Leone and Guinea. Almost 24,000 cases have been reported in all three West African countries since the start of the outbreak in 2013 when it was confirmed that a two-year-old child had died of the disease.
The new trial vaccine will be distributed in Basse Guinee, the region with the highest number of cases, and those on the ground will use a system called Index Case, which involves tracing all the contacts of a person confirmed with the disease and asking them to be vaccinated. Prof Carroll added: “The work to understand the survivors’ immune response to Ebola will help us understand if the vaccine will work.
“The people of Guinea are extremely appreciative of the work we do with them and they are keen to learn the science so they can address their own problems in the future.”