New York: In a first, researchers have discovered therapeutics that have successfully protected and treated mice infected with the virus that causes the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
In the current MERS outbreak, around 180 people have been infected by the deadly virus in South Korea, and nearly 30 have died.
“Though early, this is very exciting and has real potential to help MERS patients,” said lead researcher Matthew Frieman, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM).
The virus has killed more than 400 people since it was first discovered three years ago in Saudi Arabia.
In the study, the researchers found that two antibodies, REGN3051 and REGN3048, showed an ability to neutralize the virus.
“We hope that clinical study will progress on these two antibodies to see whether they can eventually be used to help humans infected with the virus,” Frieman pointed out.
This research, done in collaboration with Regeneron, a biopharmaceutical company based in Tarrytown, New York, used several of the company’s proprietary technologies to search for and validate effective antibodies targeting the virus.
MERS was first discovered in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. It appears that the disease spread to humans from camels, who may themselves been infected by bats.
Research has shown that it is similar to Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS); both are caused by Coronaviruses, both cause respiratory problems, and both are often fatal.
The paper also announced the development a novel strain of mice that can be infected with MERS.
“This new mouse model will significantly boost our ability to study potential treatments and help scientists to understand how the virus causes disease in people,” Frieman said.
The study appeared in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).