SCIENCE

Is Ebola’s Cure In Survivor’s Blood?

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Britons Test New Ebola Vaccine
(Photo : Getty Images/WPA Pool)

For current drug development, researchers are targeting one molecule or a very small number to develop a drug or vaccine.

Nobel laureates and molecular biology experts David Baltimore and James Watson, along with hedge-fund owner Jim Simons, have proposed using surviving patient's blood to detect hundreds or thousands of antibodies and combine them into a single treatment for Ebola, reports News Daily.

They have sent the proposal to officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, lawmakers and biotech companies and are waiting for a response.

For the treatment of HIV-AIDS, scientists developed multi-drug cocktails that could be grown in commercial quantities which have led to some success.

"It would cost less than $1 million to get the genetic sequences of the antibodies from people who have recovered, and then we would have hundreds or even thousands of antibodies," said geneticist Michael Wigler of Cold Spring Harbor Lab who gathered signatures for the proposal.

Those who have signed on to the new proposal are not Ebola experts. There is also no guarantee that plan will work or how long it would take for research and regulatory approval.

"Studies have shown that some antibodies that neutralize the Ebola virus in test tubes don't protect infected lab animals," said Thomas Geisbert at the University of Texas Medical School.

European researchers are planning on testing the serum from Ebola survivors directly. However, obtaining the serum for transfusions from West Africa is a difficult task and has the potential to expose health workers during the collection and transfusion processes.

By contrast "it takes a very short time to produce countless copies of antibody genes," said Michel Nussenzweig, a molecular biologist and immune system expert at Rockefeller University.

ZMapp, which consists of three different antibodies produced by mice infected with Ebola, is one of the most promising experimental treatments. However, it took over a decade to develop.

One advantage the proposed plan has over ZMapp is that since the "Ebola virus is mutating, a three-antibody cocktail like ZMapp may stop working," Wigler said. However, he added, "It is highly unlikely that the targets of hundreds of antibodies would all mutate. A diversity of antibodies mimics the body's own defenses and could overcome mutations in the virus that may develop."

 

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