Saturday, October 29, 2011

Antibody Vaccine Shows Promise for Nipah and Hendra

A new monoclonal antibody vaccine that protects against two paramyxoviridae viruses - Nipah and Hendra - has shown promise in clinical trials involving monkeys. The NIH stated that in all 12 trials, the monkeys received lethal doses of the Hendra virus and were subsequently given the antibody vaccine, and all 12 monkeys recovered.

Nipah is a deadly disease that has killed 251 of the 475 people known to have been infected with it (most of whom worked with pigs); the movie Contagion was based upon the Nipah virus. Hendra has only been known to have infected 7 people (4 cases were fatal), but this preliminary vaccine may also have saved the lives of an Australian mother and daughter who were sick with the virus. Antibodies are relatively expensive to produce, however, so scientists are also looking into the possibility of peptide vaccines for the two diseases - an option which has shown promise among hamsters.

I find this an interesting progress because it's vital that we research vaccines for not only the traditional headliner viruses (HIV, ebola, etc), but even those that occur less commonly. Nipah and Hendra may not be household names, but given how quickly swine flu mutated from an infection among pigs to one that could be readily transmissible among humans, it's quite possible that these deadly diseases could quickly mutate to become much more widespread. If such a scenario ever occurs, it would be hugely beneficial to already have a template vaccine available to work with.

Original article:

- Elena Higuchi

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