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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid