Antibody cocktail completely halts Zika infection in monkeys

2017-10-05 07:39:52 GMT2017-10-05 15:39:52(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- U.S. researchers said Wednesday they had zeroed in on a trio of antibodies that completely prevented Zika virus infection in monkeys.

If proven safe and effective in humans, the antibody cocktail could be given to at-risk pregnant women to prevent microcephaly and other brain damage to their babies, according to the study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

"This is a promising intervention to prevent and treat ZIKV (Zika virus) infection during pregnancy," study author David Watkins, professor and vice chair for research at the University of Miami's Department of Pathology, said in a statement.

"We would like to develop this antibody combination and get it into clinical trials as soon as possible."

Working with researchers from the Scripps Research Institute, Watkins' team used a cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies to treat four monkeys.

These three potent antibodies -- called SMZAb1, SMZAb2, and SMZAb5 -- were isolated from a South American patient.

"We administered a cocktail of these three antibodies to nonhuman primates one day before challenging them with Zika virus that had been isolated from a pregnant woman during the 2016 epidemic in Rio de Janeiro," Watkins said.

"To our surprise, this prophylactic treatment completely prevented the virus from taking hold in the animals."

In four control animals, the virus caused a fulminant infection that lasted for seven days, Watkins added.

But there were no measurable virus levels in the blood of the four animals treated with the antibody combination, nor was there any immune system response, indicating the virus had been blocked completely.

"Since these antibodies have exceptional safety profiles in humans and cross the placenta, this combination could be rapidly developed to protect uninfected pregnant women and their fetuses," he said.

No Zika virus vaccine has successfully emerged from the lengthy drug development process, and several regions remain vulnerable to outbreaks, including parts of the Southern United States.