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Ebola vaccine shows long-term protection over 2 years

A nurse administers an Ebola vaccine in Monrovia, Liberia on February 2, 2015 as part of a clinical research study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the Liberian Ministry of Health.
A nurse administers an Ebola vaccine in Monrovia, Liberia, as part of a 2015 clinical research study. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

An Ebola vaccine made by Merck has protected a group of volunteers for two years — the longest it has been shown to protect against the disease, according to a study published in Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The context: "A fast-acting, long-lasting vaccine given in a single dose would be an effective tool for controlling dangerous Ebola outbreaks," STAT's Helen Branswell reports.

Yes, but: The vaccine targets only one strain of Ebola, known as Zaire, and samples from additional trials will be needed to support these findings.

What's next: Merck is looking to apply for FDA approval of the candidate vaccine this year.

Stay tuned for: The lead author of the paper and an infectious disease specialist, Angela Huttner and her team have collected blood samples from volunteers in Geneva, Switzerland to see how the vaccine performs after three years, but they haven't analyzed them yet.

  • Huttner told STAT: “Our hypothesis is that the values we’re seeing at two years shouldn’t change too much at three, four, and five years.”

Take note: Some experts in the industry believe a two-dose vaccine, like the ones being developed by Janssen Vaccines and Prevention BV, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, may be better equipped at offering long-term protection.

Alison Snyder 3 hours ago
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Scientists grapple with the world's plastic problem

Illustration of plastic bubble wrap with one bubble including the Earth.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A new plastic was created that can be recycled repeatedly — the latest advance in the lab as scientists try to address the world's growing plastics problem.

The problem: Roughly 4.9 billion tons of plastic waste produced since the 1950s hasn't been recycled or burned. And, plastic production is expected to double over the next two decades.

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Birds-eye view: How deforestation takes over in Brazil

An animation showing deforestation in the Amazon
A time-lapse satellite view of deforestation in Brazil from 1984 to 2016. Images via EarthTime.

As seen in the graphic above, based on EarthTime's deforestation data and story, Brazil's Rondônia state changed drastically over a 30-year period. It started as pristine forest in 1984, then came a single road the following year that exploded into a town of 20,000 people with tens of thousands of square kilometers of forest cut for crops and cattle.

Why this matters: Deforestation can create areas of extreme heat, make forests vulnerable to mega-fires, and lead to the loss of habitat for millions of species. Forests lock in carbon — and about 12% of man-made climate emissions today are linked to deforestation.