Government scientists will begin human trials next week on a possible Ebola vaccine, after taking “extraordinary measures” to develop the drug quickly.

The vaccine has performed “extremely well” in animal tests, said Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health’s infectious diseases unit. It’s designed to inoculate patients from two strains of Ebola, including the one responsible for the outbreak in West Africa that has killed more than 1,500 people.

Despite the measures taken to speed up the development process, Fauci said it’s “impossible to predict” when a vaccine might be ready and approved for use by health care workers headed to West Africa.

The initial round of human trials will focus on the drug’s safety. Ultimately, 20 patients will receive the drug at NIH’s facilities in Maryland, where scientists will determine whether the drug is safe and whether it provokes the same “immune response” in humans that it does in chimpanzees. Test subjects won’t be given Ebola, and they cannot become infected with the virus by taking the vaccine, Fauci said.

He said NIH will have the results from this study by the end of the year. The next steps will depend on those results as well as the state of the Ebola outbreak.

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