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Sporadic outbreaks of Ebola virus infection have been documented since the mid-Seventies and viral exposure can lead to lethal haemorrhagic fever with case fatalities as high as 90%. There is now a comprehensive body of data from both ongoing and completed clinical trials assessing various vaccine strategies, which were rapidly advanced through clinical trials in response to the 2013–2016 Ebola virus disease (EVD) public health emergency. Careful consideration of immunogenicity post vaccination is essential but has been somewhat stifled because of the wide array of immunological assays and outputs that have been used in the numerous clinical trials. We discuss here the different aspects of the immune assays currently used in the Phase I clinical trials for Ebola virus vaccines, and draw comparisons across the immune outputs where possible; various trials have examined both cellular and humoral immunity in European and African cohorts. Assessment of the safety data, the immunological outputs and the ease of field deployment for the various vaccine modalities will help both the scientific community and policy-makers prioritize and potentially license vaccine candidates. If this can be achieved, the next outbreak of Ebola virus, or other emerging pathogen, can be more readily contained and will not have such widespread and devastating consequences. This article is part of the themed issue ‘The 2013–2016 West African Ebola epidemic: data, decision-making and disease control’.

Original publication




Journal article


Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences


The Royal Society

Publication Date





20160295 - 20160295