News / Health

Researchers Rush Development of Antibodies to Treat Ebola

Jessica Berman
Amid a deadly outbreak of Ebola virus in the western African country of Guinea, an international team of researchers has stepped up production of experimental antibodies that scientists say have the potential to cure people infected with the virus, which has a 90 percent fatality rate.  

Twenty laboratories and research sites around the world, including in Canada, Japan, Israel, Uganda, and the United States are working simultaneously to develop manmade antibodies against Ebola virus. Antibodies are frontline immune system proteins the body makes naturally to fight illness when first exposed to an infection.
 
Immune system proteins targeting Ebola, when administered by injection, have a high cure rate in animal experiments, says Erica Ollmann Saphire, an immunologist with Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

“We have done a lot of experiments in non-human primates and if you can get the antibody into them within 48 hours after exposure, you can save nearly all of the animals. And even if you wait four or five days - say, someone that did not know they had been exposed - you wait four or five days for that animal to develop complete hemorrhagic fever, you can save more than half,” said Saphire.

Ingesting the disease

The disease, contracted through consumption of infected bats and tainted bush meat, quickly causes severe headache, fever and muscle aches before patients develop full-blown symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and hemorrhaging.  

The United States has contributed $28 million to an effort aimed at determining which of the half dozen or so antibodies being developed around the world are the most effective in fighting the deadly virus. A successful treatment for Ebola may ultimately contain a mix of several antibodies.

Saphire is leading the research effort, which is being coordinated by the Scripps Institute. She says normally, it takes several days for the body to make antibodies against an infection, time which most Ebola patients do not have.

“It is a way to make somebody immediately immune ... And so the idea is that we have gotten these antibodies either from cells donated by survivors or by immunizing mice, and we humanize the antibodies; we can just take these things that we have grown in cell culture and give them to you right now to protect you from your infection that you have immediately without, you know, having to wait four days,” she said.

Antibodies and virology

The global effort to develop an antibody drug against Ebola, Saphire said, is unique in the world of virology.

“And so that kind of the magnificent thing about this is that the whole field is contributing to the study to come up with the single best treatment available in the world. So, it is not going to be the Canadian treatment versus the American treatment versus competing labs. Everyone is on the same page in one set of ... experiments,” she said.

In the early stages, Ebola can be difficult to distinguish from other diseases that are endemic to Africa, including malaria and cholera. So, diagnostic tests also have been sent to Guinea and neighboring countries to aid in detection and efforts to treat those infected with the virus.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid