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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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Eastern Congo Suffers From a Deadly Ebola Outbreak

Some people still refuse to believe Ebola exists and have hidden infected family members.

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Ebola, WHO
In this photo taken Sept 9, 2018, a health worker sprays disinfectant on his colleague after working at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, DRC. VOA

An outbreak of Ebola in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed more than 200 people. Almost 300 Ebola cases have been confirmed since the outbreak began in August, authorities say.

The health ministry said half of the cases were in Beni, a city of 800,000 people, in the North Kivu province.

The outbreak is in a conflict zone where dozens of armed groups operate. Aid agencies have been forced to suspend or slow down their work on several occasions since the outbreak.

Ebola, WHO
A health care worker from the World Health Organization, left, gives an Ebola vaccination to a front line aid worker who will then vaccinate people who might potentially have the virus, in Mbandaka, Congo. VOA

Health Minister Oly Ilunga said his response teams “have faced threats, physical assaults, repeated destruction of their equipment and kidnapping.”

“Two of our colleagues in the Rapid Response Medical Unit have even lost their lives in an attack,” Ilunga said.

Ebola was detected in the DRC in 1976. The current outbreak is the tenth since it was first discovered.

The World Health Organization has warned the virus could spread to nearby countries, including Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

congo, ebola
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

Medical workers have lots of experience dealing with Ebola outbreaks in the DRC. Fortunately, they have new tools to fight the deadly virus. A new vaccine has shown it can protect people who’ve come into contact with Ebola victims, and more people have learned techniques to keep the virus from spreading.

Also Read: Uganda Readies Itself To Fight Off Ebola From The DRC Border

However, old problems persist with every outbreak. Some people still refuse to believe Ebola exists and have hidden infected family members. Traditional burial practices also put people at risk. (VOA)