A human antibody given to monkeys infected with the deadly Hendra virus completely protected them from disease, according to a study published by National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists and their collaborators. Hendra and the closely related Nipah virus, both rare viruses that are part of the NIH biodefense research program, target the lungs and brain and have human case fatality rates of 60 percent and more than 75 percent, respectively. These diseases in monkeys mirror what happens in humans, and the study results are cause for hope that the antibody, named m102.4, ultimately may be developed into a possible treatment for people who become infected with these viruses.
In May 2010, shortly after the NIH study in monkeys successfully concluded, Australian health officials requested m102.4 for emergency use in a woman and her 12-year-old daughter. They had been exposed to Hendra virus from an ill horse that ultimately was euthanized. Both the woman and child survived and showed no side effects from the treatment.
"This is an important research advance that illustrates how scientific discoveries emerge through a steady stepwise process, and how our investment in research on countermeasures for biodefense and emerging infectious diseases can help global preparedness efforts," said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Hendra virus emerged in 1994 in Australia and primarily affects horses, which can spread the disease to humans. No person-to-person transmission of Hendra has been reported. Nipah virus emerged in 1998 in Malaysia, and also has been found in Bangladesh and India. Nipah appears to infect humans more easily than Hendra and can be transmitted from person to person.
The NIAID-supported study, which appears online in Science Translational Medicine, involved infecting 14 African green monkeys with a lethal dose of Hendra virus. Twelve of th
|Contact: Ken Pekoc|
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases