Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chimera Cows to Send Ebola out to Pasture??

            Ebola continues to be a tender subject. 8,500 Africans have already died in this outbreak, and the virus doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Additionally, there seems to be a shortage of antibodies used for ZMapp and other experimental anti-Ebola drugs. Currently, these drugs rely on the blood of survivors, which has limited production. It would be a real mis-steak not to try and ramp up production.

One solution has been to genetically engineer cows that produce human antibodies.

These cows actually have pieces of human DNA that allow them to produce human anti-Ebola antibodies. Each cow can produce 30-60 liters of blood plasma every month—about 500-1000 human doses. The company testing this approach, Canadian pharmaceutical manufacturer Tekmira, has been working on experimental drugs for Ebola and Hantavirus. While this approach is promising, the cow-derived drugs haven’t been shown to work for Ebola Makona (which has mutations in many of the sites targeted by ZMapp), although it looks better against Ebola Zaire (which ZMapp seems to be helping against).

During his recent State of the Union Address, President Obama cited the outbreak and the progress on a vaccine as reasons for the US Government to keep funding scientific research. Will the drugs produced from these cows send Ebola over the hill once and for all? Or will we have to mooove on to another solution? 

--Joe Getsy

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