News / Health

Researchers Develop Antibodies to Treat Ebola Virus

Ebola virusEbola virus
x
Ebola virus
Ebola virus
Jessica Berman
Researchers say they're making progress toward a treatment for the dreaded Ebola virus, which recently caused outbreaks in equatorial Africa.  Experiments with monkeys using laboratory-engineered disease-fighting agents called monoclonal antibodies show promise in treating infection with the highly lethal disease.

U.S. government and private industry researchers have developed a drug that contains a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies against Ebola. A monoclonal antibody is a disease-fighting protein engineered to target and disarm a specific virus, bypassing natural antibodies produced by the body’s immune system.

Dubbed MB-003, the anti-Ebola cocktail contains three monoclonal antibodies that attach themselves to three different sites on the surface of the deadly virus. The pathogen, unable to evade the multiple attacks, withers away.

Larry Zeitlin is president of Mapp Biopharmaceutical, which helped develop MB-003.  Zeitlin says researchers were originally interested in the monoclonal antibody formulation for bio-defense, should terrorists concoct a biological weapon using Ebola.  But Zeitlin says there is an urgent need for a drug to treat the disease during outbreaks.

In experiments, 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," said Zeitlin.

Ebola causes 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 originally produced the MB-003 proteins in mice, but now use a plant called nicotiana, a relative of tobacco.  By 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.

It’s not known precisely where the highly infectious virus comes from, but scientists suspect it originated in non-human primates. Outbreaks typically occur every one to two years in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Uganda, and the Republic of Congo.

An article on the development of plant-derived monoclonal antibodies to treat Ebola is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid