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Ebola vaccine trial suspended in Geneva over joint pains

A clinical trial of Ebola vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical firms Merck and NewLink, has been suspended after 4 patients complained of joint pains in their limbs.

The University of Geneva hospital said, “They are all fine and being monitored regularly by the medical team leading the study,” in a statement. These joint pain symptoms in hands and feet were “benign and temporary”, the hospital added. Fifty nine volunteers have been vaccinated so far.

A Swiss trial of the Canadian-developed Ebola vaccine has been suspended as a precaution. (Col. Shon Remich/Walter Reed Army Institute of Research)

The vaccine, originally developed at the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, has been licensed to NewLink and Merck. The next trials of the vaccine will be resumed on January 5, 2015.

The decision to suspend the trials comes as health officials in Sierra Leone discovered scores of bodies in a remote diamond-mining area, raising fears of a spike in the number of unreported deaths.

Apart from the team in Geneva, other researchers in the United States, Germany, Canada and Gabon are carrying out the same trial with the Merck and NewLink vaccine but they “have not observed symptoms of inflammation in their volunteers to date,” said the statement.

Marie-Paule Kieny, vaccine expert at the World Health Organization said the delay was intended to allow time to see how widespread the problems are. “It’s not a setback, not at all,” she said in Geneva.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation said it uncovered a “grim scene” in Sierra Leone’s Kono district. Sierra Leone has now overtaken Liberia as the country with the highest number of Ebola cases in west Africa, with 7,897 cases since the beginning of the outbreak.

The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 6,000 people in west Africa.

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