A MUM-of-two from Oxfordshire was the first person in the world to be injected with an Ebola gene yesterday as part of a city-led battle against the deadly virus.

She was one of 60 people who will be given a trial vaccine for the virus in the coming weeks at the Churchill Hospital’s Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine.

The latest epidemic has killed more than 2,500 people so far, prompting what the UN called a “health crisis unparallelled in modern times”.

There is currently no known cure for the virus.


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Ruth Atkins, from Marcham, near Abingdon, signed up for pioneering trials to combat the disease, after reading about them in the Oxford Mail in August.

After suitability tests she was chosen as the first person to be given the trial vaccine and was injected with it yesterday.

She said: “I have been following what has been on the news about Ebola and they have to start somewhere with the vaccine. If I can be a part of that it is a good thing. Without the volunteers they can’t progress this forward.

“If I was on the other side of the fence I’d be hoping someone in the UK would be helping develop a vaccine.”

The 48-year-old, who works in communications for the NHS in Swindon, said she was particularly affected by the suffering of children.

She said: “There is an element of being a mother and I have had a chat with my son and daughter about it since I got the go-ahead.

“They have realised the severity of what is going on and how people are dying from it.

“If the shoe was on the other foot I wouldn’t want my children to be dying from Ebola.”

Volunteers will be injected with a gene from Ebola, which is put into a safe carrier virus which would normally transmit the common cold.

If that is successful, this will lead to the volunteer developing an immunity to Ebola.

A number of monkeys injected with the vaccine were exposed to Ebola but did not catch the virus.

Oxford Mail:

  • Prof Adrian Hill

The chief investigator for the trial, Prof Adrian Hill, said if the trials go well the vaccine could be in Africa within three months.

He said: “The goal we were given by the World Health Organization was not just to get this vaccine into a clinic, as we have today with the first volunteer.

“It was to complete a trial here in Oxford and eight trials in West Africa in the next two or three months.”

Prof Hill added: “By the end of the year they can make a formal decision on whether this is a vaccine that should be used to try and end the outbreak.”

So far 260 people have expressed their interest in taking part in the trial, including someone from the Canary Islands.

Oxford Mail:

  • Sheridan Edwards

Back-up volunteer Sheridan Edward, 33, who was on stand-by in case Ms Atkins was unable to go ahead with the trial, will be given the vaccine in the next few days.

The opera singer, who lives in Headington, said: “Different people have their own way of helping.

“Some people sit in a bath of baked beans or run a marathon. For me, I just thought ‘If not me then who?’ “It’s nice to be a part of it and it gives you a way to help.”

Ms Atkins’ MP Ed Vaizey tweeted: “V.proud of my constituent Ruth Atkins. First human vol. [volunteer] to be given Ebola vaccination.”

Prof Hill and his team still need volunteers to take part in the trial.

To get involved, email vaccinetrials@ndm.ox.ac.uk

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