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Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

University researchers eye potential Ebola combatant in new antibody delivery method

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Researchers from the University of Guelph have turned to an antibody-based therapy they say could both help prevent and treat otherwise deadly Ebola infections.

The method in question is a new way of delivering antibodies, discovered by professor Sarah Wootton of the university’s Department of Pathobiology and Ph.D. student Laura van Lieshout. Their findings–published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases–demonstrate that relief could be found through an adeno-associated virus, used to deliver antibodies.

Through that approach, the researchers reported a 100 percent protection rate for mice against Ebola infection using two different types of monoclonal antibody therapies and an 83 percent effectiveness in a third. When they made a cocktail of two antibodies, they could also provide Ebola protection for up to five months.

“Our goal is to make an antibody-based therapy that can protect against all strains of Ebola, and potentially Marburg virus, as well,” Wootton said. “It would be used to stop the spread of the virus in outbreak situations.”

It works like this: by using the AAV gene therapy vector to deliver DNA blueprints to cells, the cell begins to produce anti-Ebola antibodies. Those antibodies are pumped into the bloodstream, and work to ward off infection. Those antibodies keep being produced. In the case of the lab mice, they were produced for more than 300 days.

“We are hoping to use this technology in a post-exposure scenario,” Wootton said. “Let’s say someone has been exposed to Ebola. The idea would be to give them this AAV vector to start producing the antibodies that prevent death.”

Death is a very real concern with Ebola, which was responsible for more than 11,000 people killed in West Africa between 2013 and 2016. For the purposes of their research, the team is now seeking research funding for human clinical trials from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, formed in the wake of that most recent outbreak.