Antibody 'cocktail' looks promising against deadly Marburg virus

In a recent study, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have characterized new antibodies that protect against the ebolavirus' sinister relative--the Marburg virus.

Ebolavirus has claimed the lives of just over 11,000 people since its dramatic emergence last year, with the majority of incidences occurring in West African nations. If infected with the structurally related Marburg virus, however, chances of survival are worse yet--with a mortality rate of 90% as there are currently no vaccines or treatment available.

Erica Ollmann Saphire, who is a professor at TSRI and the senior author of the work published this week in PLOS Pathogens, says "these antibodies attack a new site on Marburg virus we had not seen before."

Previously, Saphire's team highlighted molecular structures that the Marburg virus depends on to adhere to and bind host cells. These sites presented the researchers an opportunity to direct targeted antibodies against them. And using a "cocktail" of antibodies they observed up to 90% to 100% protection in preclinical trials.

Erica Ollmann Saphire

Their work was in collaboration with Emergent BioSolutions ($EBS), which helped design the antibodies. The approach to multiple antibodies to attack the virus was taken from trials using the experimental ZMapp treatment against ebolavirus, showing complete survival of preclinical trials (Nature article).

"The high cost of creating independent vaccines or treatment for each of the different viruses in this family necessitates intelligent design of immunogen," says Jody Berry, who initiated the study with Saphire 6 years ago. Their antibodies have also demonstrated cross reactivity with ebolavirus and its four relatives in the ebolavirus genus, giving their treatment platform a range of viral targets.

"Understanding where and how the antibodies interact with the virus tells us which regions can be targeted and helps us develop lead candidates for clinical development," says Cory Nykiforuk, director of pipeline research of Emergent BioSolutions. "There are multiple filoviruses that threaten our communities, front line medical workers and defense personnel and bringing new technologies to the forefront could potentially help meet future requirements."

- here's the release
- read the original PLOS Pathogens article

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