The trial protocols for four Marburg vaccines are ready, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.
“A WHO committee has now reviewed the evidence for four vaccines. Trial protocols are ready, and our partners are ready to support the trials,” Tedros told a news conference.
He added that the WHO looks forward to working with the governments of Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania to begin these trials “as soon as possible” to help prevent cases and deaths now and in future Marburg outbreaks.
In Equatorial Guinea, the number of officially reported Marburg cases remains at nine, with seven deaths, in three provinces, he said and added: “However, these three provinces are 150 kilometres (93.2 miles) apart, suggesting wider transmission of the virus.”
Tedros also said that his organization is aware of additional Marburg cases, and it has asked the government to report these cases officially to WHO.
Regarding the situation in Tanzania, he said that the current confirmed cases stand at eight with five deaths, while three people are currently being treated in a health facility.
So far, all of the reported cases are in one region, he said.
“We can only truly protect human health if we also protect the health of animals and our planet,” Tedros said, showing the outbreaks of Marburg virus disease are another reminder of that.
Tanzania confirmed its first known cases of Marburg virus disease on March 21, while Equatorial Guinea reported an outbreak a month ago.
Marburg is a member of the same virus family as Ebola, exhibits comparable symptoms, spreads among people in a similar manner, and, like Ebola, has a very high fatality rate. Although there are no approved Marburg vaccines or treatments, WHO is leading an attempt to assess potential vaccines and treatments in light of the outbreak.
Marburg virus was first recognized in 1967, when outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever occurred simultaneously in labs in the German town of Marburg, as well as in Belgrade in former Yugoslavia.