Monoclonal antibodies crucial to fighting emerging infectious diseases

March 8, 2018, NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs)—preparations of a specific type of antibody designed to bind to a single target—have shown promise in the fight against cancer and autoimmune diseases. They also may play a critical role in future battles against emerging infectious disease outbreaks, according to a new article by scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The article is published online this week by The New England Journal of Medicine and outlines the potential uses for mAbs as treatments for infectious diseases and as a prevention tool for protecting individuals at risk of infection and slowing disease outbreaks.

The article, written by NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., and colleagues Hilary D. Marston, M.D., M.P.H., and Catharine I. Paules, M.D., highlights the research advances that could allow for rapid, strategic deployment of mAbs to prevent and treat emerging infectious diseases and, potentially, alter the course of epidemics.

Although mAbs were originally described in the 1970s, their value has become more widely recognized as scientists have developed more direct and improved approaches to identifying, selecting, optimizing and manufacturing them. These advances have allowed for improved safety and efficacy, and substantial efficiencies in identifying promising candidates. For example, mAbs now can be identified directly from individuals previously infected by or vaccinated against a specific pathogen. Moreover, modifications can be made to extend the life of a mAb and further improve its safety.

Because mAbs with optimized targeting and other characteristics can be developed, their activity can be precisely tailored to serve specific treatment and prevention purposes. For example, during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak, a small clinical trial of the drug ZMapp, which contains three different mAbs, appeared to show a drop in mortality among infected volunteers who received the experimental therapeutic. Additionally, research in laboratory animals suggests that mAbs may play a role in protecting pregnant women in Zika-endemic areas and their fetuses from infection. Further, promising preclinical studies suggest that mAbs aimed at specific targets on the influenza virus could treat influenza and interrupt influenza transmission when used prophylactically in uninfected individuals.

The authors caution that mAb-based therapies may be costly to develop and deploy at first and should be used judiciously. However, prices will likely fall in the future, as target optimization may offer effectiveness with smaller amounts of antibody, or novel approaches such as delivering antibodies through DNA or mRNA constructs, may be further developed. By prioritizing research for mAbs against infectious diseases, the authors assert, global health leaders can improve preparedness for treating and preventing emerging and re-emerging .

Explore further: Researchers reveal new way to potentially fight Ebola

More information: Hilary D. Marston et al, Monoclonal Antibodies for Emerging Infectious Diseases—Borrowing from History, New England Journal of Medicine (2018). DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1802256

Related Stories

Researchers reveal new way to potentially fight Ebola

March 6, 2018
More than 11,000 people died during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2013-16, demonstrating both the deadly nature of the virus and the limitations of the medication used to fight it.

New tobacco plant produced therapeutics effective against West Nile virus, even days after infection

March 27, 2014
An international research group led by Arizona State University professor Qiang "Shawn" Chen has developed a new generation of potentially safer and more cost-effective therapeutics against West Nile virus, and other pathogens.

Ebola antibody treatment, produced in plants, protects monkeys from lethal disease

October 15, 2012
A new Ebola virus study resulting from a widespread scientific collaboration has shown promising preliminary results, preventing disease in infected nonhuman primates using monoclonal antibodies.

Strategic plan for developing a universal influenza vaccine

February 28, 2018
Developing a universal influenza vaccine—a vaccine that can provide durable protection for all age groups against multiple influenza strains, including those that might cause a pandemic—is a priority for the National ...

Multiple research approaches are key to pandemic preparedness, NIAID officials say

October 5, 2017
Preparedness in the face of major disease outbreaks can save thousands of lives: Rapid deployment of effective diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines may even stop the disease from potentially exploding into a pandemic. A ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals new therapeutic target for slowing the spread of flu virus

June 22, 2018
Influenza A (flu A) hijacks host proteins for viral RNA splicing and blocking these interactions caused replication of the virus to slow, according to new research published in Nature Communications by Kristin W. Lynch, Ph.D., ...

First ancient syphilis genomes decoded

June 21, 2018
An international research team, including scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the University of Tübingen, the National School of Anthropology and History in Mexico City, and the University ...

Rhesus macaque model offers route to study Zika brain pathology

June 21, 2018
Rhesus macaque monkeys infected in utero with Zika virus develop similar brain pathology to human infants, according to a report by researchers at the California National Primate Research Center and School of Veterinary Medicine ...

California Aedes mosquitoes capable of spreading Zika

June 21, 2018
Over the last five years, Zika virus has emerged as a significant global human health threat following outbreaks in South and Central America. Now, researchers reporting in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases have shown that ...

Breakthrough treatment for crippling jaw disease created

June 20, 2018
A first-ever tissue implant to safely treat a common jaw defect, known as temporomandibular joint dysfunction, has been successfully tested by UCI-led researchers in a large animal model, according to new findings.

New flu vaccine only a little better than traditional shot

June 20, 2018
A newer kind of flu vaccine only worked a little bit better in seniors this past winter than traditional shots, the government reported Wednesday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.