Thursday March 21, 2019

‘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

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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Ebola Epidemic To Spread in Eastern DRC, Claims WHO

The Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces is the second largest in history after the 2014 epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people.Prior to the recent incidents, progress was being made in containing the spread of the Ebola virus in the DRC.

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A health worker in a protective suit walks past burned structures after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the east Congolese town of Katwa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb. 25, 2019. (Meinie Nicolai/MSF) VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the deadly Ebola virus is likely to spread in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo because of deteriorating security in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

The latest WHO figures put the number of Ebola cases at 885, including 555 deaths.

International efforts to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in eastern DR Congo have hit a serious roadblock. The charity Doctors Without Borders has suspended its life-saving operations. The action follows attacks on two of its Ebola treatment centers this week — the first on February 24 in Katwa, followed by an attack three days later in Butembo.

Burned structures are seen after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the east Congolese town of Katwa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb. 25, 2019. Picture taken February 25, 2019. (Laurie Bonnaud/MSF)
Burned structures are seen after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the east Congolese town of Katwa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb. 25, 2019. Picture taken February 25, 2019. (Laurie Bonnaud/MSF) VOA

The World Health Organization called the attacks deplorable and said there is a great risk of the spread of the disease. During the attack on the facility in Butembo, four Ebola patients fled for their lives.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said three of the patients have since returned, while one is still missing.

“If you want, the positive note is that all of these four patients were convalescent, that means they were already getting better,” he said. “Hence, they had a lower viral load, which makes it way less likely for further infections.But yes, it is highly important to find those people, that last patient and then, of course, immediately start the contact tracing and monitor the contacts these patients might have been in touch with.”

Ebola
International efforts to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in eastern DR Congo have hit a serious roadblock. VOA

Lindmeier said the WHO remains committed to staying in the DRC until the job is done. However, he notes that an Ebola outbreak as complex as this one can only be managed collectively and by having all the partners on the ground. He added that it is normal to expect organizations to do whatever is necessary to protect their staffs.

Also Read: India Should Crack Down Upon The Terror Sympathizers Within The Country

The Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces is the second largest in history after the 2014 epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people.Prior to the recent incidents, progress was being made in containing the spread of the Ebola virus in the DRC.

The WHO reports the disease is now largely under control in the former hot spots of Mangina, Beni, and Komanda.It says more than 250 people have been cured and 80,000 protected through vaccination. (VOA)