Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Strides made in heading off deadly Ebola virus

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 19th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

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.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - U.S. government and private industry researchers have developed a drug that contains a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies against Ebola. A disease-fighting protein engineered that targets and disarms a specific virus, the monoclonal antibody bypasses the natural antibodies produced by the body's immune system.

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.

.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)