May 18, 2017 — (BRONX, NY) — After analyzing the blood of a survivor of the 2013-16 Ebola outbreak, a team of scientists from academia, industry and the government has discovered the first natural human antibodies that can neutralize and protect animals against all three major disease-causing ebolaviruses. The findings, published online today in the journal Cell, could lead to the first broadly effective ebolavirus therapies and vaccines.
Ebolaviruses infections are usually severe, and often fatal. There are no vaccines or treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating these viruses. Some two dozen ebolavirus outbreaks have occurred since 1976, when the first outbreak was documented in villages along the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). The largest outbreak in history — the 2013-16 Western African epidemic — caused more than 11,000 deaths and infected more than 29,000 people.
Monoclonal antibodies, which bind to and neutralize specific pathogens and toxins, have emerged as one of the most promising treatments for Ebola patients. A critical problem, however, is that most antibody therapies target just one specific ebolavirus. For example, the most advanced therapy — ZMappTM, a cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies — is specific for Ebola virus (formerly known as “Ebola Zaire”), but doesn’t work against two related ebolaviruses (Sudan virus and Bundibugyo virus) that have also caused major outbreaks.