Researchers discover first Human Antibodies to fight Ebola viruses

May 19, 2017 15:00 IST

A team of scientists from the United States have discovered a possible cure for all five known Ebola viruses, one of which ravaged West Africa in recent years.

The research was published online in journal Cell as 'Antibodies from a human survivor define sites of vulnerability for broad protection against Ebola viruses' on 18 May 2017.

After analyzing the blood of a survivor of the 2013-16 Ebola outbreak, a team of scientists discovered the first natural human antibodies that can neutralize and protect animals against all three major disease-causing Ebola viruses.

The findings could lead to the first broadly effective Ebola virus therapies and vaccines. These antibodies can be used as a single therapy to treat all Ebola viruses.

Kartik Chandran, a Professor in the Department of Microbiology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, helped identify the antibodies. The study was co-led by John M Dye, Chief of viral immunology at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

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Why there is a need of Broadly Active Therapeutics and Vaccines?
• Monoclonal antibodies, which bind to and neutralize specific pathogens and toxins, have emerged as one of the most promising treatments for Ebola patients.
• However, a critical problem is that the most antibody therapies target just one specific Ebola virus like ZMappTM therapy, a cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies.
• ZMappTM is specific for Ebola virus 'Ebola Zaire' but doesn’t work against two related Ebola viruses 'Sudan virus' and 'Bundibugyo virus' that have also caused major outbreaks.
• It is hardly possible to predict which of these agents will cause the next Ebola breakout. In such scenario, it becomes ideal to develop a single therapy that could treat or prevent infection caused by any known Ebola virus.

Ebola Virus

Ebola viruses infections are usually severe and often fatal. There are no vaccines or treatments approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for these viruses.

Some two dozen Ebola virus outbreaks have occurred since 1976, when the first outbreak was documented in villages along the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). The largest outbreak in history was the 2013-16 Western African epidemic.

The deadly virus killed more than 11000 people out of the nearly 29000 people who became infected in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

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