A new therapeutic made from tobacco plants has been shown to arrest West Nile virus infection, according to a new study by Arizona State University scientist Qiang Chen and his colleagues.
Chen, a researcher at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute and professor in the PolyTechnic Campus' College of Technology and Innovation, is the first to demonstrate a plant-derived treatment to successfully combat West Nile virus after exposure and infection. The research appears in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (advanced online edition).
There are currently no available vaccines against West Nile, nor effective therapeutics for human use, so the current findings are a considerable advancement and may offer the best hope thus far that the West Nile virus infection can be stopped, even several days after viral infection.
West Nile virus has made alarming inroads in North America, causing disease outbreaks throughout the U.S., as well as in areas of Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America. Elderly individuals and those with depressed immunity are particularly vulnerable to West Nile, a mosquito-borne illness which can cause a potentially lethal inflammation of the brain.
Chen's group demonstrated the versatility of plant-based biotechnology. "The goal of this research was twofold," said Chen. "First, we wanted to show proof-of- concept, demonstrating that plant-made antibodies can work as effective post-exposure therapeutics. Secondly, we've sought to develop a therapeutic which can be made inexpensively so that the health care systems in developing countries can afford it."
Issues of affordability for such antibody-based treatments are central to the challenge, Chen stresses, with the costs for development of a traditional pharmaceutical mammalian cell line production facility often running into the tens of millions of dollars. Besides being inexpensive,
|Contact: Joe Caspermeyer|
Arizona State University