US: Antibody protects animals against Nipah virus
Posted: October 30th, 2009 - 8:04pm
CHICAGO -- A new antibody treatment protected animals that had been exposed to the deadly Nipah virus, raising hopes for a treatment for this and the related Hendra virus that affect humans and livestock, an international team reported on Thursday.
"We now have good evidence that this antibody could save human lives," Dimiter Dimitrov of the National Cancer Institute, who worked on the study, said in a statement.
Both the Nipah and the Hendra viruses emerged in the 1990s. They are carried by a type of fruit bat commonly called flying foxes. Recent outbreaks have shown the virus to be highly infectious, causing severe disease in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh and India.
The viruses can cause brain swelling and acute respiratory illness. As many as 75 percent of infected people die.
For the study, researchers working at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Victoria tested a newly developed monoclonal antibody -- a highly targeted immune system protein -- that is designed to attack and neutralize a key component of the Nipah and Hendra viruses.
Tests in ferrets showed the antibody prevented animals exposed to the Nipah virus from becoming sick.
Deborah Middleton, who directed the animal experiments at the Australian lab, said in a statement the results were "highly encouraging" and suggested the antibody might also fight the related Hendra virus.