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Secrets to antibody's success against West Nile Virus surprise scientists

s, reportedly caused 2,470 infections and 88 deaths in the United States. First isolated in Africa in 1937, West Nile spread to the Middle East, Europe, and Asia before arriving in the United States in 1999. Most infections with the virus are mild or symptom-free, but infections in people with weakened immune systems and those over 50 sometimes lead to serious complications or death.

Like West Nile, dengue virus is a flavivirus spread by mosquito bites, but only in tropical regions of the world. The dengue virus is estimated by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologists to cause100 million infections annually worldwide.

"Currently there are no effective and safe vaccines for pediatric dengue," says co-author Michael Diamond, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular microbiology, of pathology & immunology and of medicine. "Thanks to our data from the West Nile virus antibody, we believe we now have a much better idea of how to evaluate vaccines for dengue."

Fremont and Diamond led a team of researchers at Washington University and Macrogenics Inc., a private company, that announced the identification of the effective West Nile antibody earlier this year. In a line of mice genetically altered to increase vulnerability to the virus, they found injection of the new antibodies could boost survival rates of mice infected with the virus to greater than 90 percent.

Scientists at Macrogenics are working on the preliminary studies required before the West Nile antibody can be tested in humans. Meanwhile, researchers at Washington University wanted to know why the new antibody was so effective.

Antibodies normally work by binding to invaders to flag them for consumption and destruction by immune system cells known as macrophages. In the prior study, which screened several potential West Nile antibodies, scientists found that all the most potent antibodies bound to a particular section of a protein that m
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Source:Washington University School of Medicine


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