First-ever possible treatments for MERS Virus identified with discovery of two antibodies

The two antibodies, REGN3051 and REGN3048, showed an ability to neutralize the virus.

Created On: Jul 1, 2015 11:03 IST

The team of researchers from University of Maryland School of Medicine scientists (UMSOM) identified two promising treatments to prevent and treat deadly epidemic Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). The findings were published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on 29 June 2015.

The University of Maryland School of Medicine scientists and New York-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc have discovered and validated two therapeutics that show early promise in preventing and treating the disease, which can cause severe respiratory symptoms.

Findings of the study
• The two antibodies, REGN3051 and REGN3048, showed an ability to neutralize the virus. Both antibodies exhibit tight binding to the recombinant Spike (S) protein, suggesting that they have a high affinity for binding to MERS-CoV S protein.
• REGN3051 and REGN3048 potently block entry of MERS-CoV into susceptible cell lines and neutralize infectivity.
• Moreover, these antibodies neutralize a broader range of MERS-CoV isolates with improved potency compared with several antibodies isolated solely based on in vitro biochemical properties.

How it happened?

• This research used several proprietary technologies to search for and validate effective antibodies targeting the virus.
• This work relied on Regeneron’s VelociGene technology to create partially humanized mice that can be infected with MERS.
• Mice were intraperitoneally injected with either REGN3051, REGN3048, or hIgG1 isotype control antibody 24 hours before intranasal infection of MERS-CoV.
• REGN3051 and REGN3048 were able to significantly decrease MERS-CoV specific RNA levels in the lungs by over 2 logs compared with the isotype control antibody. REGN3051 was more effective at reducing MERS-CoV RNA levels compared with REGN3048 at the same dose.
• The development a novel strain of mice will help scientists understand the disease and look for treatments. Mice are typically not susceptible to MERS.

About Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
MERS was first discovered in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. It appears that the disease spread to humans from camels, who may themselves been infected by bats. Research has shown that it is similar to Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS); both are caused by Coronaviruses, both cause respiratory problems, and both are often fatal.

The South Korean outbreak of MERS began in May 2015 when a traveler returned from Saudi Arabia, and infected many people before officials realized he had the disease. So far, around 180 people have been infected in South Korea, and nearly 30 have died.

This South Korean epidemic has killed more than 400 people since it was discovered.

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