Strides made in heading off deadly Ebola virus
Antibodies found to help stave off march of fatal disease
The virulent Ebola virus, which renders its victim in a state of virtual body meltdown, has experienced resurgence in parts of Uganda. Now, however, researchers say they're making progress toward a treatment for the dreaded virus. Experiments with monkeys using laboratory-engineered disease-fighting agents called monoclonal antibodies are hopeful in treating infection the lethal disease.
Called 'MB-003,' the anti-Ebola cocktail contains three monoclonal antibodies that attach themselves to three different sites on the surface of the deadly virus. Unable to evade the multiple attacks, the disease then withers away.
Called "MB-003," the anti-Ebola cocktail contains three monoclonal antibodies that attach themselves to three different sites on the surface of the deadly virus. Unable to evade the multiple attacks, the disease then withers away.
President of Mapp Biopharmaceutical Larry Zeitlin helped develop MB-003. Researchers were originally interested in the monoclonal antibody formulation for bio-defense, Zeitlin says, should terrorists concoct a biological weapon using Ebola. He says there remains an urgent need for a drug to treat the disease during outbreaks.
Test subject animals, rhesus macaques were infected with lethal doses of Ebola and then given the monoclonal antibodies up to 48 hours after exposure. With the treatment, two-thirds of the monkeys survived, according to Zeitlin.
"And one thing we were excited about is the animals showed very little evidence of disease," Zeitlin says.
Symptoms of Ebola include a sudden onset of severe headache, vomiting, muscle aches, diarrhea, and bleeding. The disease is fatal in up to 90 percent of cases.
Zeitlin says virologists use a plant called nicotiana, a relative of tobacco. Infecting it with portions of the Ebola virus, Zeitlin says nicotiana can be tricked into producing the needed monoclonal antibodies.
"Using these plants, we can manufacture pretty significant quantities of antibody very quickly, much quicker than traditional manufacturing systems. So if there were an outbreak of Ebola or some new virus, you could rapidly scale up production of antibodies using this system to address that threat," he said.
Zeitlin says researchers hope to move to human safety trials soon, after conducting more animal studies to confirm the antibodies are safe.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Ebola, antibodies, cure, terrorist, biolgical weapons
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