Safety trials on an Ebola vaccine are being fast-tracked, meaning it could be given to healthy volunteers as early as September, researchers said Thursday. The vaccine will be given to volunteers in Britain, the Gambia and Mali in a bid to tackle the spread of an epidemic which has spread across west Africa, killing 1,552 so far. The move was announced by pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline -- which is developing the vaccine with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) -- and London-based medical charity Wellcome Trust, which is contributing to a grant to pay for the trials. "A candidate Ebola vaccine could be given to healthy volunteers in the UK, the Gambia and Mali as early as September, as part of a series of safety trials of potential vaccines," the statement said.
Ebola-hit nations met for crisis talks on Thursday as the death toll topped 1,500 and the World Health Organization warned that the number of cases could exceed 20,000 before the outbreak is stemmed. Nigeria meanwhile announced the virus had reached its oil-producing hub, dashing hopes that the country had successfully contained its spread outside its biggest city, Lagos. Health ministers from member states of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS were meeting in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, to discuss how to strengthen its response to the devastating outbreak. As of August 26, 1,552 people had died from the virus in four countries -- Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria -- while 3,062 had been infected, the WHO said in Geneva.