Monrovia — The Partnership for Research on Ebola Virus in Liberia (PREVAIL) announced the start of a new study to investigate if genes impact how individuals respond to the Ebola virus.
At Monday's opening session in Liberia, 15 volunteers successfully enrolled after completing the study entry process, which included a rigorous information session, a review of their medical history, and consent to participate in the study.
Genes carry information passed on from one's parents that affect how one looks as well as how the body works, grows and responds to infection. In this study, researchers will look for genes that may be related to a person's health outcome after coming in contact with the Ebola virus. They will also look for genes related to the risk that a person will die of Ebola.
"We are about to embark on a study to investigate the genetic basis for people who contracted and overcame Ebola."
"What we learn could hold the key for future therapy to protect Liberia and our world from the next Ebola onslaught," noted Mosoka Fallah, PhD, MPH, one of the Co-Principal Investigators of the study and Deputy Director General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, NPHIL.
The study, called PREVAIL 6, aims to enroll approximately 8,500 participants at least three-years old and from four groups. One group would include up to 2,000 Ebola survivors, primarily those already enrolled in the Ebola Natural History Study, (PREVAIL 3).
A second group will include up to 3,000 people who were not infected but were close contacts of Ebola patients or were exposed to the virus either through their work or other association but never got Ebola.
The third group will enroll up to 3,000 individuals from the two vaccine studies, PREVAIL 1 and 5, who had no known Ebola exposure. Lastly, stored samples from up to 500 deceased Ebola cases will be included in the study.
Samples from these participants will be used to analyze their genes to determine how the genes compare among those who got sick with Ebola and survived; those who got sick with Ebola and died; and those who did not get sick with Ebola.
The samples will be processed at the Division of Biomedical & Public Health Research at NPHIL, and then part of each sample will be sent to the United States for genetic testing on specialized equipment that is not currently available in Liberia.
The study also will enable researchers to compare genes to further understand why some survivors continued to have health problems even after they have recovered from the illness, and why some men who survived Ebola continue to have traces of the virus in the semen for longer durations than others.
The study is a collaboration between PREVAIL; the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health; and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Massachusetts, USA.
The trial is co-sponsored by NIAID and the Ministry of Health of Liberia.
PREVAIL 6 is led by a team of Liberian and American researchers.
The co-Principal Investigators are Dr. Mosoka Fallah of Liberia; Lisa Hensley, PhD, Deputy Director for Science for the NIAID Integrated Research Facility-Frederick of NIAID-NIH; and Pardis Sabeti, MD, DPhil, Associate Professor in the Center for Systems Biology at Harvard University for the Broad Institute.
Participants will be recruited at PREVAIL sites by trained study personnel, and informed consent will be obtained before any study-related procedures or assessments are performed.
Because the study is voluntary, participants may withdraw at any time if they do not wish to continue in the study.