Wednesday January 24, 2018

‘Trojan Horse’ Antibody Strategy Shows Promise Against Ebola Virus

Monoclonal antibodies, which bind to and neutralize specific pathogens and toxins, have emerged as the most promising treatments for Ebola

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FILE - A health worker, center, takes the temperature of people to see if they might be infected by the Ebola virus inside the Ignace Deen government hospital in Conakry, Guinea, March 18, 2016. VOA
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Scientists have found a hidden weak spot shared by all five known types of the deadly Ebola virus and successfully targeted it with two antibodies that blocked its ability to invade human cells.

In early-stage laboratory experiments published in the journal Science, the researchers developed a “Trojan horse” strategy that allows engineered antibodies to hitch a ride on Ebola to where the virus is most vulnerable before hitting it.

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“The success in co-opting the virus itself to dispatch a lethal weapon … marks a turning point in the development of smart therapeutics against infectious diseases,” said M. Javad Aman, a scientist, and president at the U.S. biotech firm Integrated Bio Therapeutics who worked on the team.

Although years of testing lie ahead before any fully approved treatment might be developed for Ebola patients, Aman said similar strategies could also be devised against several other viral and bacterial pathogens.

No approved treatments

Ebola is an extremely deadly and contagious disease for which there are currently no regulator-approved vaccines or treatments. A vast outbreak of the Zaire strain of the virus, which causes haemorrhagic fever, killed more than 11,000 people and infected around 29,000 in West Africa in 2014-15.

Monoclonal antibodies, which bind to and neutralize specific pathogens and toxins, have emerged as the most promising treatments for Ebola. But a critical problem is that most antibody therapies — including the most promising experimental therapy, ZMapp — target only one specific Ebola virus.

Ebola Virus. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Ebola Virus. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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In this work, the research team found a way around this by targeting a weak spot — in the so-called lysosome of the cell — to where antibodies could hitch a ride on Ebola and deliver a punch that blocked the virus’ exit and ability to replicate.

The strategy could eventually be developed for use in a range of other viruses, the scientists said, including cousins of Ebola such as Marburg, and other viral diseases such as dengue or Lassa.

“It’s impossible to predict where the next Ebola virus outbreak will occur or which virus will cause it,” said Jon Lai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, who co-led the work. “We hope that further testing in nonhuman primates will establish our antibodies as safe and effective for treating those exposed to any Ebola virus.”(VOA)

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An enzyme has been identified to stop Ebola infection

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An enzyme has been identified to stop Ebola infection
An enzyme has been identified to stop Ebola infection. wikimedia commons

London, Dec 30, 2017: Raising hope for an effective drug to treat people with Ebola virus, researchers have found that an enzyme could help prevent the deadly virus from spreading.

The enzyme takes away the virus’ ability to copy itself and thus produce more virus particles and more infection, said the study published in the journal Molecular Cell.

‘When the Ebola virus enters the human cell, its only purpose is to copy itself, fast. First it must copy all its proteins, then its genetic material,” said Jakob Nilsson, Professor at University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

“But by inhibiting a specific enzyme we rob the Ebola virus of its ability to copy itself. And that may potentially prevent an Ebola infection from spreading,” Nilsson said.

There is currently no available treatment for Ebola virus infection.

However, the researchers behind the new study found what is called a new host factor for Ebola virus.

It can be described as a small part of the host’s — for example the human body’s — own cells, which the Ebola virus uses to copy itself and produce more infection.

The virus uses the host factor enzyme PP2A-B56 to start producing proteins.

So when PP2A-B56 is switched off, the virus’ ability to copy itself and produce more infection is stopped.

“When we inhibit the PP2A-B56 enzyme, we remove the first link in a long process, which ends with Ebola spreading. And we can tell that it works,” Nilsson said.

“The Ebola infection in cell cultures where we have inhibited the PP2A-B56 enzyme is 10 times smaller after 24 hours compared to infections where we have not inhibited this enzyme,” Nilsson added.

But because the researchers have so far focused on cell cultures, there is still work to be done before their results can be used to treat people infected with Ebola.

Initially the researchers hope to be able to test it on animals and, in the long term, develop a drug that inhibits the relevant enzyme. (IANS)