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Image of the Week: Ebola Vaccine

15 Jan, 2016

Ebola IoW

Our image this week is a visualisation of antibodies being activated by the Ebola vaccine.

Ebola has featured heavily in the news this week, as the World Health Organization announced on Thursday that the epidemic was over in West Africa. While it is promising that known chains of transmission had ended, flare-ups of the disease were expected, and one has already been reported in Sierra Leone. This highlights the fragility of the situation, and the importance of continuing to develop new vaccines and treatments.

Commissioned for the Wellcome Trust Annual Review, photographer Catherin Losing and set designer Sarah Parker were tasked with the challenge of depicting an Ebola vaccine at work inside the body. They placed a set of tiny blobs of glycerine on glass and laid them on the floor, taking the photograph from above. They used the convex of the blobs to bring the shape of the ebola virus into focus like little wide-angle lenses, and used ‘Y’ shapes to represent the antibodies being activated by the vaccine in the body.

The Ebola vaccine known as VSV-ZEBOV, co-funded by the Wellcome Trust, was announced as being up to 100 per cent effective in a clinical trial in Guinea in August 2015. Carrying out both a safety and efficacy trial for the vaccine within eight months took an astonishing collaborative effort, but it was not quick enough for the thousands of people who died of Ebola in the outbreak.

A report published this week by the US National Academy of Medicine – and co-sponsored by the Wellcome Trust – stressed that the global community must be better prepared for future pandemic threats.  The report highlighted that the equivalent of 60 cents a year for everyone in the world could make us a lot safer against epidemic and pandemic threats.

Image Credit: Photography: Catherine Losing, Set design: Sarah Parker. (C) the image makers 

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