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An animal welfare victory in the U.S. may prove to be a conservation catastrophe in Africa. Tests of a promising oral Ebola vaccine that could protect wild apes may be abandoned this month when a ban on the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research comes into force.
An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has swept across west Africa over the past 17 months, killing more than 11,000 people. Humans are not the only great apes at risk. The virus has killed chimps elsewhere in Africa, and, according to estimates by Peter Walsh at the University of Cambridge, the virus has wiped out a third of the world’s gorillas, leaving the western lowland gorilla critically endangered.
Infected ape carcasses have, in turn, triggered further human outbreaks in central Africa. Walsh thinks the virus is now spreading across central Africa towards previously unaffected gorillas.
But there is hope. Last year, Walsh reported that an injectable vaccine made of viral fragments prompted chimps to produce antibodies at levels that protected vaccinated macaque monkeys from Ebola. For ethical reasons, chimps cannot be exposed to the virus to test vaccines. However, human trials of Ebola vaccines being carried out in west Africa mean researchers can now compare antibody levels in vaccinated chimps with those known to protect humans.
Read full, original post: Ban on chimp testing puts wild ape vaccine for Ebola at risk