San Antonio's Texas Biomed has received a contract to test an experimental vaccine for the Ebola virus, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Researcher Dr. Ricardo Carrion says the vaccine, called ZMapp, has proven effective in early trials in stopping the spread of Ebola in animals.
"This contract will allow us to test the efficacy of this antibody cocktail in a well controlled study that has not been done before," he said.
Ebola, which is found mainly in Africa, is a variation on hemorrhagic fever which is fatal in about half of all cases. It is best known in Texas from an outbreak in Dallas which was spread by a patient who had traveled to the Texas from Africa.
"This therapy is able to catch animals who are very close to having a fatal outcome and they will recover," he said. "A large percentage of them recover."
Texas Biomed will be used to test the vaccine because of its Biosafety Level 4 laboratory, which can contain the deadly pathogen. Texas Biomed's controlled population of animals as a National Primate Research Center also makes it perfect for this work.
Dr. Carrion says Ebola is very uncommon in the United States, but it is a big worry for, for example, U.S. forces deployed in Third World countries.
"For our military, if they go into an area that might be endemic to the virus, or there might be some bad actors who might try to infect them with this virus," he said.
Dr. Carrion says, in addition to Mapp Pharmaceutical, the company that hopes to market ZMapp, funding for the study is provided by the federal government, because the Ebola virus has been listed by Homeland Security as a possible terrorist bioweapon, and having an effective and tested vaccine would do much to blunt that possible threat.