News / Health

Researchers Develop Experimental Treatment for Deadly Nipah Virus

FILE - Bats fly over a tree at a central park in Dhaka, Bangladesh, March, 6, 2008.
FILE - Bats fly over a tree at a central park in Dhaka, Bangladesh, March, 6, 2008.
Jessica Berman

Researchers are a step closer to developing a treatment for the deadly Nipah virus, a disease transmitted by fruit bats that has a high mortality rate.  The disease is most common in Asia and South Asia.

Nipah virus causes fever, headache, drowsiness, mental confusion, and left untreated, it can progress to coma. It has a 90 percent mortality rate.  Although rare, it occasionally causes outbreaks among hundreds of people in Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh and India through contact with the bodily fluids of infected fruit bats, including their urine.

The highly infectious virus is in the same class as Ebola, Marburg, and Hendra viruses. Currently, there's a serious Ebola outbreak in three countries in western Africa.

Researchers who work with Nipah must wear protective suits, gloves and face masks. Once infected, an individual can spread the illness to other people.

Now, a team of U.S. university and government researchers has discovered an antibody in uninfected individuals that fights the virus. They report their findings this week in Science Translational Medicine.

Lead researcher Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch says the human monoclonal antibody cured the test animals - African Green Monkeys - even as many as five days after the infection had set in. Otherwise, they would have died within eight to 10 days.

"We give 'em [them] the antibody and they are completely protected against Nipah.  So, that's really a unique aspect and really exciting for us," said Geisbert.

If developed as a therapy for people, that would give public health officials enough time to identify an outbreak and begin treatment.

Geisbert says the antibody is unlike a traditional vaccine, which stimulates the immune system to fight a virus or bacteria.

"The antibody pretty much attacks and targets and blocks the virus from replicating or making more virus particles," said Geisbert.

Because of the deadly nature of Nipah, and the fact that outbreaks occur so infrequently, Geisbert says human safety trials, along with data showing the drug cures sick animals, are enough to gain regulatory approval in the United States.  The process has implications for the development of treatments for other exotic diseases.

Australia, there have been outbreaks of a similar disease called Hendra among race horses.  Health officials there are interested in beginning a safety trial with the Nipah antibody, which is also effective against Hendra, by year's end.

While Nipah is rare, Geisbert says international travel could spread the virus to other countries.   

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
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 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 Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
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.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid