An Ebola Breakthrough

Jun 6, 2018, 20:15 PM by Donna Ramirez
New study identifies antibodies that could be used to design universal therapeutics


A new collaborative study has identified Ebola antibodies that could be used to design universal therapeutics that are effective against many different Ebola species. The findings were recently published in Nature Microbiology. 

The Ebola virus causes a severe illness with high mortality rates in humans. Several treatments have been developed for the Ebola infection, including ZMapp, which has been shown to be effective in non-human primates and has been used under compassionate-treatment protocols in humans. 

ZMapp, an experimental biopharmaceutical drug developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical in San Diego, California, was used to treat humans in the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak. 

“The trouble with ZMapp is that, although it is effective against the Ebola species that was largely responsible for the last Ebola outbreak, it does not neutralize other Ebola species, including Ebola Bundibugyo, Reston or Sudan,” said virologist Alex Bukreyev, co-senior author of the study and a UTMB professor of pathology. “We identified and studied three naturally occurring antibodies from human survivors of Ebola Bundibugyo that neutralize and protect against infection with the several different Ebola virus species.” 

The newly identified antibodies bond at a different site on the Ebola virus than other antibodies currently used to develop Ebola therapies. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, the virus has been infecting people from time to time, leading to outbreaks in several African countries. 

Some of the different Ebola viruses are: 

• Zaire ebolavirus 

• Sudan ebolavirus 

• Taï Forest ebolavirus 

• Bundibugyo ebolavirus 

• Reston ebolavirus, known to cause disease in non-human primates and pigs, but not in people 

Other authors of the study from UTMB also include Natalia Kuzmina, Philipp linykh, Xiaoli Shen, Kai Huang, Palaniappan Ramanathan and Thomas Ksiazek. They were joined in the study by researchers from Vanderbilt University, The Scripps Research Institute and Integral Molecular, Inc., a private biotech company. 

The study was supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the National Institutes of Health.

UTMB professor helped develop vaccine now being used to fight Ebola outbreak in Congo 

AN EBOLA VACCINE THAT DR. THOMAS GEISBERT HELPED DEVELOP is being used to combat an outbreak of the deadly disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Geisbert, a UTMB professor of microbiology and immunology, helped create the experimental vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, that is now being deployed by the World Health Organization to fight an outbreak that has infected three dozen people and killed as many as 25. 

According to the WHO, the innoculations in the Congo mark the first time that a vaccine has been used to battle an Ebola outbreak from its onset. 

The vaccine, which is now licensed to drugmaker Merck, was administered to more than 4,000 people considered at-risk toward the end of the West African outbreak in 2014. None of those who received it contracted the disease, thus prompting public health officials to use it at the start of this spring’s outbreak.