Skip to main content
Move the World.

Remember the great Ebola crisis of 2014? A devastating outbreak in West Africa caused worldwide panic, and it took health workers two years of sustained effort to contain the epidemic. The good news is that an Ebola vaccine created by the crisis works, and it looks like it’s still working two years later, meaning it could give long-lasting protection against one of the world’s deadliest diseases. Hopefully, science can make Ebola a distant, unpleasant memory—permanently.

The Outbreak: The biggest Ebola epidemic in history began quietly in 2013 and spread through Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia in late 2014. The outbreak would ultimately killed 11,000 people and leave 17,000 survivors with severe damage, a mortality rate of 40%. In some places, mortality was recorded at 70% or more. There is no cure, and treatment is limited to hydration, rest, and oxygen.

Why It’s Hard to Beat: Ebola virus spreads very slowly, through direct contact with bodily fluids, but it’s also hard to spot: infected people can feel fine for a week or more before showing symptoms. This makes it hard to quarantine, especially in places with poor sanitation, even though it moves at glacial speed compared to things like the flu. And because it’s so deadly, it’s also harder to find health workers willing to help treat patients, so containment is even more challenging.

Terror vs. Bureaucracy: The media stoked people’s fears with blatant myths about a hyper-contagious, airborne supervirus on an almost daily basis. The World Health Organization poured jet fuel on the fire, telling the public that Ebola could accelerate to 10,000 new cases a week (in reality, fewer than 30,000 infections were reported during the entire four-year outbreak). This was wildly irresponsible, but it might have had the side effect of kicking drug regulators in the pants. Ebola vaccines languishing in the tentacles of the drug approval system were dusted off and put on the fast track

Fast, Effective, Durable: Because Ebola virus is deadly and incurable, stopping new infections is the only way to save lives, and immunity is the best way to prevent infections. A promising Ebola vaccine developed in Canada was put into clinical trials, both in Europe and Africa, in part to help contain a flare up in Guinea. Those trials showed it worked quickly and was nearly 100% effective. The evidence was strong enough to stockpile 300,000 doses, even though it has yet to be officially approved by drug regulators. Even better, a new study in The Lancet showed that Ebola antibodies were still present in people’s bodies two years after receiving the vaccine, which is great news for places where it’s hard to distribute booster shots. Merck hopes to finally get FDA approval later this year.

Related Video: Could Growing Vaccines in Plants Save Lives?

Up Next

The Sound of Science
Sifting Through Sound: Using Soundscapes to Understand Ecosystem Health
Sifting Through Sound: Using Soundscapes to Understand Ecosystem Health
The Sound of Science
Sifting Through Sound: Using Soundscapes to Understand Ecosystem Health
“Ecoacoustics” is an emerging field of research. Instead of chasing down isolated animal sounds, researchers are using all of the acoustic properties of a location to answer ecological questions.
By Teresa Carey

“Ecoacoustics” is an emerging field of research. Instead of chasing down isolated animal sounds, researchers are using all of the acoustic properties of a location to answer ecological questions.

Superhuman
Electric Skin Gives Sensation Back to Amputees
Electric Skin Gives Sensation Back to Amputees
Watch Now
Superhuman
Electric Skin Gives Sensation Back to Amputees
Touch is a sensation that connects us all. This scientist created electronic skin that lets people with prosthetic limbs feel.
Watch Now

For amputees, the sensation of a ‘phantom limb’ can be a terrible or disorienting experience -- feeling a hand, arm or leg that isn’t there anymore. But researchers at Johns Hopkins have recognized that these sensations are a clue, and they’re using it to restore the sense of touch.

INTEL
Bringing Virtual Reality to Brain Surgery
Bringing Virtual Reality to Brain Surgery
Watch Now
INTEL
Bringing Virtual Reality to Brain Surgery
Virtual reality is helping surgeons and patients prepare for complicated, life-saving surgeries in ways never before possible.
Watch Now

Brain surgery is never easy -- for the doctor or the patient. Now, virtual reality is changing the game. Surgical Theater has created a revolutionary new tool, powered by Intel technology, that allows surgeons and patients to prepare for complicated new surgeries in ways never before possible. Surgeons have previously had to rely on 2D images and their imagination to visualize a surgery, but now they are able to use 3D, VR...

Superhuman
Hunting Down His Son’s Killer
Hunting Down His Son’s Killer
Watch Now
Superhuman
Hunting Down His Son’s Killer
For years, there was no diagnosis, no treatment, and no cure — because his son's disease had never been seen before. That wasn't going to stop this dad.
Watch Now

What do you do when there are no experts to turn to? For computer scientist Matt Might, the answer was obvious: you become the expert. When doctors couldn't figure out his son's disease, he found a way to crack the code. Matt's son, Bertrand, suffers from an extremely rare genetic disease, called NGLY1 deficiency, which causes chronic seizures, liver problems, and developmental delays. In fact, it was so rare that Bertrand...

Science
Bionic Prosthetic Grants Amputee Musician a Rocking Encore
Bionic Prosthetic Grants Amputee Musician a Rocking Encore
Science
Bionic Prosthetic Grants Amputee Musician a Rocking Encore
How might your life change if you lost an arm? After losing his right arm in an electrical accident, Jason wasn’t...
By Blake Snow

How might your life change if you lost an arm? After losing his right arm in an electrical accident, Jason wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to drum again.

Superhuman
Patients are Finding Relief from New Essential Tremors Treatment using Focused...
These Doctors are Performing Brain Surgery ... Using Sound
Watch Now
Superhuman
Patients are Finding Relief from New Essential Tremors Treatment using Focused...
Bonnie D'Ettorre suffers from a nerve disorder causing uncontrollable shaking. Doctors at Ohio State are about to "burn it out" using a thousand beams of ultrasound.
Watch Now

Patients stricken with “essential tremors” have their lives upended by this nerve disorder which causes uncontrollable shaking. But doctors at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are helping these patients find relief by “burning out” the problem-causing part of the brain with a high-intensity focused ultrasound. This miracle treatment significantly reduces tremors without the potential for complications posed...

On The Fringe
Can Snot Help Stop the Flu?
Can Snot Help Stop the Flu?
Watch Now
On The Fringe
Can Snot Help Stop the Flu?
The flu is a really tough target. The virus evolves far too fast to really pin it down. If only they could slow it...
Watch Now

The flu is a really tough target. The virus evolves far too fast to really pin it down. If only they could slow it down. That seemed pretty much impossible until two researchers had a breakthrough that involved the mucus of cancer patients. And what they found could fundamentally change our perception of not only the flu, but evolution itself.

Superhuman
Father Makes 3D Heart for Daughter
Father Makes 3D Heart for Daughter
Watch Now
Superhuman
Father Makes 3D Heart for Daughter
When a father’s daughter was diagnosed with a heart disease, he set out to design an innovative 3D model of a heart that doctors could explore in virtual reality to save her life and thousands more.
Watch Now

Any father would do whatever it takes to save their child’s life. So when Steve Levine found out that his daughter was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease, he started thinking of any way he could help. The problem was that his daughter was born with reversed left and right ventricles, the weaker of which would run the risk of giving out as she aged. She had a pacemaker installed at age two, and doctors gave her...

Superhuman
Meet the Mom Curing Her Daughter's Incurable Disease
Meet the Mom Curing Her Daughter's Incurable Disease
Superhuman
Meet the Mom Curing Her Daughter's Incurable Disease
Karen Aiach isn't a doctor and has never worked in medicine. But when doctors said her daughter wouldn't live past...
By Mike Riggs

Karen Aiach isn't a doctor and has never worked in medicine. But when doctors said her daughter wouldn't live past adolescence, she knew she had to get to work.