“Marburg is a highly virulent disease in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola. In Africa, patients often arrive to a physician very ill. It was important to test whether a combination of therapies would work better with really sick people, said Tom Geisbert, a professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at UTMB and the principal investigator for the study. “Our data suggests that this particular combination allowed for recovery when given at a very late stage of disease.”
Dr. Zachary A. Bornholdt, Senior Director of Antibody Discovery and Research for Mapp Biopharmaceutical and a co-author on the study, said, “Often small molecules and antibodies are positioned to compete with each other for a single therapeutic indication. Here we see the benefit of pursuing both treatment strategies in tandem and ultimately finding synergy upon combining both approaches together.”
Geisbert, Bornholdt and a large team at UTMB, Mapp Biopharmaceuticals and Gilead have been developing monoclonal antibody (mAbs) therapies to treat extremely dangerous viruses like Marburg and Ebola for several years. The treatments have proven to be highly effective in laboratory studies and emergency use, particularly when delivered early in the disease course.
In this study, using a rhesus model, treatment with monoclonal antibodies began six days post infection, a critical point in disease progression. The combination therapy with the antiviral remdesivir showed an 80 percent protection rate, indicating promise for treatment of advanced Marburg infections.
The study was supported by the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health grant U19AI142785 and UC7AI094660 for BSL-4 operations support of the Galveston National Laboratory.