According to the International Medical Corps; the ongoing 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest, most deadly in history. As of May 2015, there have been over 26,700 Ebola cases in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. This has resulted in over 11,000 deaths. Two in five infected have died.
Modern prevention and nursing methods have improved the survival rate in this epidemic from the historical average 50% mortality quoted by the World Health Organization. Nonetheless, more is required to both; improve early diagnosis of infection, and increase the efficacy of possible treatments.
Accelerating Ebola Diagnosis
It can be difficult to distinguish Ebola symptoms from other infectious diseases. Symptoms can take up to three weeks to present, at which time the infection is advanced. However, patients are not infectious until symptoms appear. So, early diagnosis is considered critical in reducing the spread of future Ebola outbreaks.
We have partnered with ECBC and USAMRIID in developing mass spectrometry based diagnostic tools for early detection of the disease. The teams hope to develop a panel of protein biomarkers that will constitute a unique fingerprint for Ebola infection, which can be used to diagnose patients before symptoms develop. A tool like this would give first responders the ability to administer the appropriate care and the unprecedented ability to track the disease outbreak in real-time.
Finding specific trace biomarkers in complex biological samples requires instrumentation of exceptional specificity and sensitivity. With this in mind, the company has donated two leading analytical systems to ECBC to accelerate the identification of biomarkers:
Extremely sensitive nano-flow chromatography system, capable of separating trace proteins in low sample volumes with exceptional resolution (Thermo Scientific UltiMate 3000 RSLCnano).
At this time, there are no licensed vaccines to protect against Ebola. Clinical trials for several candidate vaccines are in various phases and a safe and effective vaccine is hoped for by WHO by the end of 2015.
The collaboration team of Thermo Fisher Scientific, ECBC & USAMRIID is also assisting in the development and characterization of candidate vaccine preparations. Using the same technology outlined above, the team is analyzing candidate vaccines to quantify viral matrix protein (VP40) and glycoprotein (GP) concentrations expressed in virus-like particles (VLPs) generated from Ebola strains. Glycoprotein characterization and glycan quantification is critical in establishing efficacy in biopharmaceutical and vaccine preparations.
Thermo Fisher Scientific has developed advanced Glycomics workflows and technologies to assist researchers in this challenge. The aim of this work is to monitor quality control of the vaccine production process and to determine if a correlation can be made between protective immunity and the amount of Ebola-specific structural proteins, GP and VP40 that are present. This type of collaborative research is foundational in creating a long-term solution to a devastating disease and improving the odds of survival.
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