A cure for West Nile Virus (WNV) has come a step closer with the development of a treatment for the infection in mice and a trial vaccine for humans.
A cure for West Nile Virus (WNV) has come a step closer with the development of a treatment for the infection in mice and a trial vaccine for humans. Researchers in the US are looking at ways to control a disease that killed 88 people in the US last year.
In one study, WNV-infected mice recovered following treatment with an artificial antibody. The antibody, tested by Michael Diamond, assistant professor at the Washington University school of medicine, mimics those produced by people who have recovered from WNV.
’A humanised antibody now needs to be evaluated in humans to see whether it will be as effective and safe as in mice,’ said Diamond. This project will be managed by Maryland-based company MacroGenics, which will further the development and plans to take the therapy to clinical trials.
Diamond and colleagues are trying to pin down the precise molecular mechanism by which therapeutic antibodies work. They are also studying related conditions, such as dengue fever.
In a separate study, an experimental vaccine against the disease is being tested. The response of 15 volunteers to the vaccine is being measured at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center, Bethesda. Needle-free injection methods are being used to help provoke a better immune response of T cells to specific WNV-antibodies.
The trial is only in its early stages and Barney Graham, director of clinical studies at NIH, declined to comment on its progress. But however successful either of these approaches is, real-life success could be limited.
Diamond does not believe that eradicating WNV is a real possibility. Therapies are only useful once people become infected and mass vaccination programmes are unlikely to be financially viable.
Disease transmission relies on mosquitoes and birds; humans are infected incidentally. ’The only way to truly eliminate the virus would be to eliminate the mosquito vectors. Given environmental concerns, this seems unlikely at this time,’ concluded Diamond. Vikki Allen