December 10, 2020

Exploiting viral vulnerabilities

The isolation of human monoclonal antibodies against dangerous viruses including EEEV, Hendra and Nipah could offer new ways to treat and prevent these infections.

by Bill Snyder

While COVID-19 grabs the headlines, researchers are steadily making progress in the fight against other dangerous viruses. Among them: Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEEV), one of the most virulent viruses in North America, and the Hendra and Nipah viruses, which are endemic in Southeast Asia. 

As with COVID-19, there is as yet no way to block these scourges. But in two papers published this week in the journal CellJames Crowe Jr., MD, and colleagues mark progress in the development of human monoclonal antibodies to potentially treat and prevent these infections. 

In the first paper, the researchers report that two antibodies isolated from the survivor of a natural EEEV infection protected mice from a lethal aerosol challenge of the virus.  

In the second, they found the first naturally occurring human monoclonal antibodies against the Hendra virus receptor binding protein. All the antibodies neutralized the Hendra virus, and some also neutralized the Nipah virus.  

These viral vulnerabilities could be exploited in rational vaccine design, they concluded.

The studies were supported in part by National Institutes of Health grants OD020011, HL069765, AI145189, AI142790, AI095436, TR002243, AI142764 and AI152332.