Infectious Diseases

June 12, 2024

Scientists find antibodies that block parainfluenza virus infection

The antibodies may have clinical benefit as antiviral drugs to treat potentially life-threatening infections in elderly and immunosuppressed patients.

Parainfluenza virus (Adobe Stock illustration)

Human parainfluenza virus type 3 (hPIV3) is a respiratory pathogen that in children causes severe cough and breathing difficulty, commonly called croup. In elderly people, and in immunosuppressed transplant and cancer patients, however, this infection can be life-threatening.  

Vaccines against hPIV3 are being developed, but none are currently available. 

In a paper published June 10 in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Stanford University School of Medicine report the isolation and production of monoclonal antibodies that neutralized hPIV3 in laboratory studies and, in an animal model, protected against infection and disease.  

Specifically, the antibodies targeted two viral surface glycoproteins that enable hPIV3 to infect cells in the respiratory tract. These findings suggest that they may have clinical benefit as potential antiviral drugs and may inform vaccine development, the researchers concluded. 

“The discovery of these new antibodies teaches us how the body can fight off this major respiratory virus infection, and some of the best of the antibodies can be advanced in development as a candidate drug to prevent or treat infection,” said the paper’s corresponding author, James Crowe Jr., MD. 

Crowe holds the Ann Scott Carell Chair at VUMC and is University Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center. He and Theodore Jardetzky, PhD, professor of Structural Biology in the Stanford University School of Medicine, supervised the study. 

Naveenchandra Suryadevara, PhD, senior staff scientist in the Crowe lab, and Ana Rita Otrelo-Cardoso, PhD, research scientist at Stanford, were the paper’s co-first authors. Other VUMC co-authors were Nurgen Kose, Elad Binstein, PhD, Rachael Wolters, DVM, PhD, Laura Handal, and Robert Carnahan, PhD. 

The study was supported in part by National Institutes of Health grants R01AI13752 and R01AI114736.