THE last volunteer in an Oxford trial designed to find a cure for the deadly Ebola virus was vaccinated yesterday.

In September, mum-of-two Ruth Atkins from Marcham, near Abingdon, was the first person in the world to be injected with an Ebola gene.

The vaccine trial is being conducted by Prof Adrian Hill, of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University, and the 60th and final volunteer in the city trial was given the vaccine yesterday.

These first human trials were fast-tracked because of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has led to more than 5,000 deaths so far.

Our top stories

Safety trials of the vaccine, developed by the US National Institutes of Health and GSK, are also taking place in the United States, Mali and Switzerland.

If the safety data from the phase one trials is promising, the vaccine will be further evaluated for use in Africa.

Prof Hill said: “The response we have seen from people coming forward to take part has been remarkable.

“The safety data has looked very satisfactory so far.”

Among those vaccinated last Friday were Benjamin van der Merwe, 18, a sixth former at Magdalen College School in Oxford, and Sarah Bevan, 22, who is at Oxford University’s Hertford College studying Japanese.

She said: “Considering what has been happening in Sierra Leone, volunteering for the vaccine trial was one thing that I could do.”

Mr van der Merwe added that taking part in the trial “seemed like the right thing to do” after he heard about it in the news.

Oxford Mail:

 Benjamin van der Merwe and Sarah Bevan

In another project, Oxford University research to predict the geographic spread of Ebola in West Africa is being backed by £1.3m of funding from the Government and the Wellcome Trust.

The money will pay for a new project using data on human mobility, population density, and transport infrastructure in West African countries to create maps predicting how the current Ebola outbreak is likely to spread through human populations.

The project, led by Prof Simon Hay, and Dr Nick Golding of the university’s Department of Zoology, builds on methods developed to map diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

Dr Golding said: “The scientific community has an increasingly good understanding of how human movements lead to diseases being introduced.

“By turning that scientific knowledge into a tool for monitoring the crisis and guiding surveillance, we hope to use these countries’ limited resources more effectively.”

Aid workers from Oxfordshire have been working in West Africa to help tackle the virus, including Oxfam’s Ian Bray, 61, from Oxford, who recently spent two weeks in Liberia, talking to Ebola survivors and community health workers.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of equipment to help with the aid effort was earlier this month transported to West Africa from Oxfam’s warehouse in Bicester.

  • Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services  you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone’s contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.