Sunday February 24, 2019

Human Antibodies: Scientists Discover a possible Cure for all 5 known Ebola Viruses

Ebola got its name from the first documented outbreak, which occurred along the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, in 1976

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A health worker takes the temperature of people to see whether they might be infected by the Ebola virus inside the Ignace Deen government hospital in Conakry, Guinea, March 18, 2016. VOA

New York, May 21, 2017: Scientists have discovered a possible cure for all five known Ebola viruses, one of which ravaged West Africa in recent years.

The so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies were discovered in the blood of a survivor of the West African epidemic, which ran from late 2013 to mid-2016. The deadly virus killed more than 11,000 people of the nearly 29,000 who became infected in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Ebola got its name from the first documented outbreak, which occurred along the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, in 1976. Since then, there have been two dozen outbreaks of Ebola in Africa, including a current one that has infected nine people in the DRC. Three people have died.

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Kartik Chandran, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, helped identify the antibodies, which were described online in the journal Cell. He is optimistic that the antibodies can be used as a single therapy to treat all Ebola viruses.

“Based on the nonhuman primate studies that are ongoing, and given the fact that they are pretty predictive, I would be optimistic that they could be used to protect people and reverse disease,” Chandran said.

350 antibodies isolated

Researchers isolated about 350 antibodies from the human blood sample, two of which showed promise in neutralizing three viruses in tissue culture. The antibodies work by interfering with a process that the pathogen uses to infect and multiply inside cells.

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The drug company Mapp Pharmaceutical Inc. is now testing the antibodies in monkeys to make sure they are safe and effective.

A forerunner of the experimental drug, called Zmapp, was in the experimental stages when it was pressed into service during the last epidemic. Zmapp is a combination of cloned antibodies discovered in mice that enlist the body’s natural immune system to fight infection. If given up to five days after symptoms appear, it can cure the disease.

The problem, Chandran said, is Zmapp is not terribly specific and works to neutralize only Ebola Zaire, one of the five known viruses. He said the broadly neutralizing human antibodies attack and destroy all of the viruses.

It took scientists just six months to discover the antibodies, according to Chandran, “so this is really incredibly fast and incredibly gratifying. And we are hoping that things will continue at this pace and that in very short order we will be in a position to be able to test these things in people.”

While the broadly neutralizing antibodies are being developed as a treatment, Chandran envisions using them in a vaccine that can be given ahead of an Ebola outbreak to guard against infection. (VOA)

Next Story

New York Orders State to Investigate in Facebook Access to Data

Facebook is facing a slew of lawsuits and regulatory inquiries over privacy issues.

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FILE - The Facebook app icon is shown on an iPhone in New York. VOA

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered two state agencies to investigate a media report that Facebook Inc may be accessing far more personal information from smartphone users, including health and other sensitive data, than had previously been known.

The directive to New York’s Department of State and Department of Financial Services came after The Wall Street Journal said testing showed that Facebook collected personal information from other apps on users’ smartphones within seconds of them entering it.

The WSJ reported that several apps share sensitive user data including weight, blood pressure and ovulation status with Facebook. The report said that the company can access data in some cases even when the user is not signed into Facebook or does not have a Facebook account.

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Shares in Facebook took a short-lived hit after the Wall Street Journal report was published, but closed up 1.2 percent. Pixabay

In a statement Cuomo called the practice an “outrageous abuse of privacy.” He also called on the relevant federal regulators to become involved.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Shares in Facebook took a short-lived hit after the Wall Street Journal report was published, but closed up 1.2 percent.

In late January Cuomo along with New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an investigation into Apple Inc’s failure to warn consumers about a FaceTime bug that had let iPhones users listen to conversations of others who have not yet accepted a video call.

Facebook is facing a slew of lawsuits and regulatory inquiries over privacy issues, including a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation into disclosures that Facebook inappropriately shared information belonging to 87 million users with British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

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Facebook is facing a slew of lawsuits and regulatory inquiries over privacy issues. Pixabay

New York’s financial services department does not traditionally supervise social media companies directly, but has waded into digital privacy in the financial sector and could have oversight of some app providers that send user data to Facebook.

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In March, it is slated to implement the country’s first cybersecurity rules governing state-regulated financial institutions such as banks, insurers and credit monitors.

Last month, DFS said life insurers could use social media posts in underwriting policies, so long as they did not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sexual orientation or other protected classes. (VOA)