Vanderbilt University Medical Center scientist Prof. James Crowe, Jr. and his research team have isolated a human monoclonal antibody in a mouse model that seems to have had a ‘marked reduced’ infection by the Zika virus.
The researchers then generated a variety of monoclonal antibodies. In cell culture studies, they identified one, ZIKV-117, which broadly neutralized several different strains of the virus. In mice infected by the Zika virus, injection of the antibody markedly reduced disease and mortality, and reduced transmission from mother to fetus.
In addition, the findings may inform the design of vaccines that elicit protective neutralizing antibodies against Zika virus.
“This is the first antiviral that has been shown to work in pregnancy to protect developing fetuses from Zika virus,” said study’s co-senior author Prof. Michael Diamond, from the Washington University School of Medicine.
“This is proof of principle that Zika virus during pregnancy is treatable, and we already have a human antibody that treats it, at least in mice.”
“These naturally occurring antibodies isolated from humans represent the first medical intervention that prevents Zika infection and damage to fetuses,” Prof. Crowe added.
“We’re excited because the data suggests we may have antibody treatments in handthat could be developed for use in pregnant women.”
“The remarkable potency and breadth of inhibition by ZIKV-117 has great promise as it was able to inhibit infection by strains from both Africa and America in cell culture and in animals, including during pregnancy,” Dr. Diamond said.
Monoclonal antibodies are made from a single clone of B cells, a type of white blood cell, that have been fused to myeloma (cancer) cells to form fast-growing “hybridomas.” This allows researchers to quickly generate large quantities of antibodies against specific viral targets.
Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys through a network that monitored yellow fever. It was later identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.