US researchers have revealed that a revolutionary new human antibody is showing promise against the deadly Hendra virus.
Hendra virus and the closely related Nipah virus are found in Pteropid fruit bats (flying foxes) and are emerging viruses capable of causing severe illness and death in a variety of domestic animals and humans.
The latest outbreak of Hendra virus has killed 20 horses in New South Wales and Queensland since June, but no humans. However four of the seven people ever to have contracted the disease have died.
In experiments carried out in African green monkeys at the RML in Hamilton, Montana, where there is a high-level safety and security facility for working with live Hendra virus, the team of researchers, under the direction of Heinz Feldmann, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the RML, Laboratory of Virology, demonstrated that giving an anti-virus human monoclonal antibody therapy, called m102.4, after exposure to Hendra virus protected the animals from disease.
"These findings are really quite promising and appear to offer a real potential treatment for Hendra virus infection in people," said Christopher C. Broder, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology at USU and study corresponding author.
The m102.4 antibody attacks a critical component of Hendra virus and Nipah viruses and prevents their infection of cells.
"There are currently no licensed and approved vaccines or therapeutics for prevention and treatment of disease caused by these viruses for humans or livestock," said Dr. Broder.
"This human monoclonal antibody is the first effective antiviral drug against Hendra virus and Nipah virus that has a real potential for human therapeutic applications," he added.
The study will appear in Science Translational Medicine online.