Infectious Diseases

March 28, 2024

VUMC team discovers antibodies that may prevent severe respiratory illness

Using a technique developed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, researchers identified antibodies that are excellent leads as potential therapies for human parainfluenza virus 3, a leading cause of acute and potentially fatal respiratory illness.

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Human parainfluenza virus 3 (HPIV3) is a leading cause of acute and potentially fatal respiratory illness, particularly among infants, the elderly and immunocompromised patients. Although vaccine candidates and antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus are under development, there currently are no approved preventive or therapeutic treatments for HPIV3 infection. 

A major target of HPIV3-neutralizing antibodies is the fusion (F) glycoprotein on the viral surface, which enables the virus to enter epithelial cells of the respiratory tract. 

Using a technique developed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center called LIBRA-seq, the VUMC researchers identified a set of F-reactive B cells (antibody-generating white blood cells) from multiple individuals and characterized them in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Georgia. 

Reporting March 15 in The Journal of Immunology, the researchers describe the identification of several ultrapotent, neutralizing antibody candidates. They also observed an antibody “signature” suggestive of a reproducible HPIV3-neutralizing antibody response. These antibodies are “excellent leads … for further preclinical and clinical development,” they concluded. 

Ivelin Georgiev, PhD, associate professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, was the paper’s corresponding author, and Alexandra Abu-Shmais, a graduate student in the Georgiev lab, was first author.  

Other VUMC co-authors were Alexis Janke, Rachael Wolters, DVM, Clinton Holt, Nagarajan Raju, MSc, PhD, Robert Carnahan, PhD, and James E. Crowe Jr., MD. 

The study was supported in part by the G. Harold and Lelia Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation, and National Institutes of Health grants R01AI175245, T32AI112541 and K01OD036063.