New Hope in the Search for Ebola Vaccine

 

Hundreds of antibodies capable of fighting Ebola have been discovered by a team of scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California. A sample of blood from a survivor of the 2014 Ebola outbreak revealed the largest group of antibodies yet found. This breakthrough could be instrumental in the search for an effective vaccine.

When the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history began in West Africa in March 2014, no vaccine or drug existed for the disease. Since then, 11,316 people worldwide have died from the virus. These latest findings are a huge step towards preventing such a large and fatal outbreak of the disease from ever happening again.

“Our Science paper describes the first in-depth view into the human antibody response to Ebola virus,” team leader Dr. Laura Walker said in a news release from TSRI.

“Within weeks of receiving a blood sample from a survivor of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, we were able to isolate and characterize over 300 monoclonal antibodies that reacted with the Ebola virus surface glycoprotein,” added Walker, a senior scientist at Adimab, LLC and graduate of TSRI’s doctoral program.

The researchers also discovered a weak spot in the structure of the virus. Prior studies at TSRI and other research institutes had revealed similar vulnerabilities. Antibodies have the potential to attack and annihilate the virus at these weak points. However, because it takes a while for the human immune system to produce the correct antibodies to fit each susceptible area, researchers have thus far been working with a very small number of Ebola antibodies.

This recent discovery of such a large number of antibodies will change that. 77 percent of the antibodies isolated could potentially have the ability to attack the virus at one of its vulnerable sites and neutralize the virus. In addition, several antibodies provided protection against Ebola in mouse models.

“These types of antibodies could be developed into different types of antibody cocktails or therapeutics, in addition to advancing vaccine design,” said Dr. Andrew Ward, a study co-author and Associate Professor at TSRI.

If researchers do create an effective Ebola treatment that becomes widely used, the virus could mutate and become resistant to the treatment. With the findings from this study, researchers now have the tools to potentially devise secondary treatments to combat this kind of resistance.

The research team has chosen to reveal the antibodies’ genetic sequences to the scientific community to encourage further investigation and study. There is also hope that the techniques used to reveal the Ebola antibodies will be effective in discovering treatments for other viruses, such as Zika.

Findings from the study were published in the February 18, 2016 edition of Science.

 

Article sources:

News release, The Scripps Research Institute.

CDC: “2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa”.

10 Facts About the Zika Virus You Need to Know Now

The Zika virus is frightening. It seems like every day there are more cases of it in the United States. The best thing you can do is learn as much as you can about it. The following facts will help you understand what it is, what it can do, and how to protect yourself.

#1: Mosquitos Are Most Likely to Spread It

Mosquitos are what carries the Zika virus the most. So far, there has been one case of the Zika virus being transmitted through sexual intercourse. As more people become infected with the virus, the chances of catching it from someone will be higher.

#2: Symptoms Are Mild

The good news is that most people who are infected with the Zika virus never experience any symptoms, and if they do, they are mild. The most common symptoms of the virus are fever, rash, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, and conjunctivitis. These symptoms last for about a week and then go away on its own.

#3: Fetuses Are More at Risk

The Zika virus harms fetuses the most. As they are developing in the womb, the Zika virus can cause a condition call microcephaly. It causes the baby to have a small head and brain.

You probably know of the story of Jose Wesley, who was born with microcephaly. He appears to have no head, and continues to live despite the predictions doctors had about his longevity. Babies who are born with this physical disability often have heart problems, blindness and are hearing impaired as well.

#4: Zika Has Been Around for a Long Time

Zika was first discovered in 1947 in Africa. The problem is that when it was discovered, researchers thought it couldn’t harm people. Around the 1950s to 1980s, many people started to see the virus more in people. It’s not until now that they’ve finally pinpointed how it’s affected fetuses.

#5: The Zika Virus Is Spreading

It started in Africa and then went to South America. It spread much like it has to the United States. People from South America travelled to Africa, were bitten, and then were bitten by mosquitos in South America. The last known location of the mosquitos carrying the Zika Virus is Puerto Rico. This may mean the mosquitoes are travelling north, and may be in the United States soon.

#6: Mosquitos Pass It Between Each Other

More mosquitoes contract the virus by biting each other. Mosquitos do this often, and it could be the reason for the huge outbreak that’s occurred.

#7: People Are Bringing It Back from Other Countries

There are 30 countries that have been identified with the Zika virus outbreak. Americans are urged not to visit these countries, especially if they are pregnant. By limiting the exposure, it can keep the virus from coming to the United States and infect Americans.

#8: Inspect Repellant Can Help

For anyone travelling to one of the 30 countries, it’s important to use insect repellant. It can help fend off the mosquitos that carry the virus.

#9: Mosquitos Control Can Decrease the Chances of Zika Virus in the U.S.

As the spring approaches, it’s important for cities to consider adequate moisture control. By limiting the number of mosquitos in the area, there’s less of a chance the virus will be spread.

#10: Mosquitos in the U.S. Can Get It from Infected Individuals

As more people become infected with the Zika virus, mosquitos will bite them and transmit it to others. This will make the Zika

This is the reason the United States is requiring all people who have visited one of the 30 countries to be tested for the virus before entering. The only way to gain control over the spread of this virus is to keep it contained in certain areas. This way only the people who are living in them will be at risk.

A Vaccination Is in the Making

Researchers are busy working on a vaccine for the Zika virus. This vaccine will prevent the virus from its horrifying effects on fetuses. The vaccination will need to be safe for pregnant women and the fetus, so many studies will need to be conducted. It may be a while before a vaccine is available. Until then, stay away from the identified countries, and use insect repellent.