Magazine article Science News

Antibodies Fight Ebola Virus in Mouse Test

Magazine article Science News

Antibodies Fight Ebola Virus in Mouse Test

Article excerpt

In the 1995 movie Outbreak, an infectious disease of African origin ravages a fictional California town. Easily spread by coughing or sneezing, the ailment causes fever, hemorrhaging, and death among dozens of Hollywood extras. Heroic actors obtain antibodies to the virus from an infected monkey, mass-produce them, inject a patient, and--well, you'll just have to rent the video.

Despite the melodrama, this plot sounds a lot like an attack of Ebola virus--except for the antibodies. No such treatment is available. Moreover, in patients with the all-too-real virus, antibodies don't seem to play a major role. Unlike people who've bested viral diseases such as smallpox and measles, survivors of Ebola fever don't have many antibodies against the virus in their blood, and the few they have seem ineffective.

New research, however, suggests that the movie may not be so farfetched. U.S. Army researchers now have evidence that antibodies can thwart Ebola in mice. In the March 3 SCIENCE, the scientists describe making five types of antibodies that neutralize a glycoprotein on the surface of Ebola virus-infected cells.

Whether the mice were protected depended in part on the timing of the antibody injections and the amount given.

For example, 177 of 200 mice survived when given an antibody either 1 day before or 1 day after infection, but only 52 of 100 survived if given an antibody 2 days after infection. Untreated mice and those receiving antibody 3 days after infection all died. Researchers adapted a form of Ebola--taken from people who contracted the disease in the Congo, formerly Zaire--to make it lethal to mice.

Although the mice were infected only with this Zaire strain of Ebola, test-tube experiments indicate some of the antibodies might also work against strains found in the Ivory Coast and Sudan, says study coauthor Mary Kate Hart, an immunologist at the U. …

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