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Doctors Discovered Antibodies to Fight Ebola

Scientists are hopeful that that therapeutic antibodies could be the best way to stop this virus.

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Health care workers from the World Health Organization prepare to give an Ebola vaccination to a front-line aid worker in Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA
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In 1995, a patient sick with the Ebola virus, in what was then called Zaire and is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, miraculously recovered from this deadly disease. At that time, when the virus first jumped from animals to man, Ebola meant almost certain death.

Doctors found that this patient had antibodies to fight the virus in his bloodstream even after he recovered.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, invited the patient to the U.S., where researchers cloned the cell that had helped him beat Ebola.

“We brought the person back to the United States to draw his blood and try to clone the B cells that make the antibodies that this person had produced … to then, essentially, clear his virus and, hopefully, protect him against any future exposure,” Fauci told VOA.

Because the NIH scientists made numerous copies of that cell, it is called a monoclonal antibody — in this case, mAB114. It’s hoped that it can be used to target the Zaire strain of Ebola currently spreading in eastern Congo.

Fauci said mAB114 is still experimental.

“We have done a number of tests in an animal model and have shown that when you infect an animal up to five days after they become infected, and you passively transfer this antibody, you can actually protect the animals from getting sick and they recover,” he said.

Not all treatments that work in animals work in humans, something Fauci knows all too well. One treatment for HIV/AIDS that Fauci found worked well in monkeys had disastrous effects when tested in humans.

Fauci’s staff is conducting a phase one clinical trial in volunteers at the NIH hospital to make sure mAB114 is safe. So far, no one can say whether the treatment works, but because of the dire situation in Congo, and the fear the virus will spread in the armed conflict that is going on in the region, Fauci said the antibody has been given to five people with Ebola.

Ebola
Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference after an emergency committee meeting on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, VOA

At a news conference Tuesday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said he had been told they were doing well.

As of now, there’s no approved treatment for the disease, although there is a vaccine that protects people who may have been exposed to the virus but who are not sick.

Other experimental treatments are also being used to help end the outbreak in Congo. One of them is ZMapp, a combination of three monoclonal antibodies. In 2016, NIH found ZMapp safe and well-tolerated, but without an outbreak, it is impossible to prove effectiveness.

Fauci said another antiviral drug, remdesivir, is being used in patients with Ebola from West Africa, even though that outbreak is over. Scientists have found the Ebola virus can remain in the semen, so men are being treated to prevent further spread.

Also Read: HPV Vaccones are Effective, Especially for Teens

Remdesivir, or GS-5734, is produced by Gilead. On its website, Gilead says remdesivir is thought to work by blocking a key enzyme the virus needs to reproduce itself. Tomas Cihlar, Gilead’s vice president for biology, is quoted as saying, “Based on animal studies, we believe that the compound is able to penetrate the organs and tissues throughout the body where Ebola replicates.”

So far, there are no proven treatments for Ebola. Scientists are hopeful that that therapeutic antibodies could be the best way to stop this virus. An international study led by Scripps Research suggests that antibodies may be valuable treatments against new viruses and could help a patient’s immune system fight the Ebola virus after being infected. (VOA)

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Lowering The Community Resistance To Ebola Is Extremely Important: UNICEF

In its latest assessment, the World Health Organization counted 197 confirmed and probable cases, including 92 deaths.

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Photo taken Sept 9, 2018, shows health workers walking with a boy suspected of having the Ebola virus at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Eastern Congo. VOA

The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says it is increasing Ebola prevention efforts in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The agency says community resistance to efforts to contain Ebola is growing and must be fought to stop the spread of the fatal disease.

Since the disease outbreak was declared on August 1 in Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces, UNICEF has been working with communities to inform them about how the virus spreads and what measures to take to protect themselves from being infected.

The U.N. agency is working with community and religious leaders in the city of Beni, where health workers are facing hostility and resistance. UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said the spread of false rumors and fear about Ebola are endangering efforts to contain the virus.

Ebola
Congolese health workers register people and take their temperatures before they are vaccinated against Ebola in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

“We are working with anthropologists, particularly in this Beni neighborhood, who ensure that the response is sensitive to cultural beliefs and practices, particularly around caring for sick and diseased individuals, and addressing population concerns about secure and dignified burials,” he said.

Boulierac said UNICEF is expanding its community outreach program to support thousands of people at risk in the city of Butembo. Two new Ebola cases recently were confirmed in this important commercial center with nearly one million inhabitants.

He said UNICEF is deploying a team of 11 specialists in community communication, education and psycho-social assistance. The agency also will provide water, sanitation and hygiene to help contain the disease and avoid further spread of the epidemic.

Congo,ebola
A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a boy who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

In its latest assessment, the World Health Organization counted 197 confirmed and probable cases, including 92 deaths.

Also Read: North Kivu And Ituri, Congo To Welcome More Than 80,000 Children In This New School Year

The outbreak in the DRC is the 10th since Ebola was first identified in 1976. (VOA)