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Vaccine research 

There is no vaccine currently available for Lassa fever. Early supportive care, symptomatic treatment, and the anti-viral drug Ribavirin are the main options for treating patients (for more detail see our pages on care and treatment of Lassa fever). The current suggested treatment of Lassa cases using Ribavirin is based on the results of a single study carried out in Sierra Leone in the 1980s. Other studies tested the use of convalescent plasma in treatment but the results were inconclusive.

Research on vaccines for Lassa fever and the treatment of Lassa fever has been ongoing since 1986. There are currently 12 Lassa therapeutic candidates in the pipeline. Difficulties around the development of vaccines and vaccine research have included access to funding, weak health care systems, lack of knowledge about the incidence of the disease (including surveillance or epidemiological data), and the presence of different lineages of the virus in the countries where Lassa fever disease occurs (which might require different kinds of vaccine). The lessons learned during the West African Ebola outbreak, when the global community was unable to deploy vaccines until the epidemic was in its tail despite having had a number of vaccine candidates in the pipeline, galvanized the global health community. The WHO has developed a research and development roadmap for Lassa fever. CEPI, a global partnership which aims to develop vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, recently began preparation of clinical trial sites for Lassa fever in different West African countries.

Resources

WHO: Target product profile for Lassa virus vaccine

This resource is an outline of the WHO target product profile development  for Lassa, as well as a generic description of WHO's Vaccine Pre-qualification process.

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WHO: Efficacy trials of Lassa therapeutics: endpoints, trial design, site selection

This resource is a final report of a WHO workshop regarding efficacy trials of Lassa therapeutics. 

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When experiments travel: Clinical trials and the global search for human subjects

This book aims to challenge conventional understandings of the ethics and politics of transnational science and change the way we think about global medicine and the new infrastructures of our lives. It explores the clinical trials industry through both an economic and cultural lens to examine the ways commercial medical science is currently being integrated into local health systems.

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EBOVAC-Salone: Lessons learned from implementing an Ebola vaccine trial in an Ebola-affected country

This article describes the experiences of the EBOVAC-Salone research team in setting up and implementing the trial, and provides recommendations for research teams aiming to conduct clinical trials in future outbreak situations.

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'He is now like a brother, I can even give him some blood': Relational ethics and material exchanges in a malaria vaccine 'trial community' in The Gambia

This paper explores social relations within the ‘trial community’ (staff and volunteers) of a Malaria Vaccine Trial (MVT), implemented by the Medical Research Council (MRC) in The Gambia between 2001 and 2004. It situates ethical concerns with medical research within the everyday life of scientific fieldwork. Based upon discussions with volunteers and staff, it looks at processes of mediation between scientific project and study population, between formal ethics, local ethical debates, and everyday practice.

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