Researchers Identify New Antibodies Capable Of Treating Ebola Virus Disease

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Researchers from National Institute of Health (NIH) isolate set of antibodies called bNAbs in the blood of EVD survivors that can help develop new therapies against Ebola virus.

On 8 May 2018, the Ministry of Health (MoH) of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared the ninth outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in four decades. A cumulative total of 58 EVD cases, including 27 deaths have been reported in the country this year. ZMapp, an experimental biopharmaceutical drug originally developed at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML). Although the therapy comprising three monoclonal antibodies had promising results in clinical trial, it is capable of targeting only one of the five known species of Ebola virus. Now, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH, discovered a set of antibodies called bNAbs in the blood of EVD survivors. These bNAbs are powerful and broadly neutralize the various species of Ebola virus. The new antibodies were tested on animals and the researchers found that two of these antibodies provided substantial protection against disease caused by Zaire ebolavirus, Bundibugyo ebolavirus, and Sudan ebolavirus. These three species are known to cause fatal human illness. The researchers analyzed blood plasma from 17 patients that recovered from EVD. It was observed that antibodies isolated from the two subjects bound to an essential virus protein, called glycoprotein (GP). This protein is found in Zaire, Bundibugyo, and Sudan Ebola virus species and prevented the viruses from entering host cells.

The researchers characterized interactions between various forms of viral GP and three of the newly isolated bNAbs and revealed the multiple mechanisms of antibodies that inhibit actions of all forms of GP, which in turn prevents infection by halting viral entry into the host cell. Furthermore, a bNAbs- EBOV-520 recognizes and binds to a portion of virus GP to prevent it from interacting with a cell surface protein called NPC1 and initiating the infection cycle. The researchers concluded that these broadly neutralizing antibodies are expected to assist in development of new therapeutic molecules against several species of Ebola virus. The research was published in the journal Immunity on July 17, 2018.

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