A new type of antibody has shown unusually potent activity against the Zika virus, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology say the antibody, known as ZIKV-177, is 10 times more potent than the next best against Zika.
In a study published in the journal Nature Medicine, the team shows that ZIKV-177 was able to completely block Zika infection in two different animal models.
The antibody was also able to neutralize a Zika strain from Brazil that is highly similar to the one currently circulating in Puerto Rico.
“This is an exciting development because it suggests that a single antibody could be used for both prophylactic and therapeutic treatment of Zika virus infection,” said lead author Shibo Jiang, PhD, professor in the UC San Diego Department of Medicine.
The Zika virus has caused a global health emergency due to its link to birth defects. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the virus.
The new antibody was derived from the blood of a person who had recovered from a Zika infection.
“This study demonstrates the power of using monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of Zika virus,” said co-author Alessandro Sette, Dr.Biol.Sci., head of the Infectious Disease Division at the La Jolla Institute.
“By targeting different structures on the virus surface with different antibodies, we may be able to develop a cocktail that provides even better protection.”
The researchers are now working on improving the antibody’s potency and stability, with the goal of moving it into clinical trials.
A new CRISPR-adapted antibody neutralizes 99.9 percent of Zika virus in infected cells and offers 100 percent protection in mice, researchers report in a new study. Based on the findings, the researchers say the antibody could potentially lead to the development of an Zika virus therapy.
Though it’s been only a few years since Zika virus emerged in the Western Hemisphere, the disease has already spread rapidly, causing devastating birth defects in babies infected in utero. There is currently no cure or prevention for Zika infection.
In the new study, published in the journal Nature, a team of scientists led by Zhejiang University in China set out to develop an antibody that could protect against Zika virus.
First, the team used CRISPR-Cas9, a powerful gene-editing tool, to create several hundred mutations in a key antibody-producing gene. Next, they screened the mutated genes for the ability to produce antibodies that could neutralize Zika virus.
From these, the researchers identified a single antibody, dubbed ZK18, that was particularly effective at neutralizing the virus.
In tests in infected cells, the ZK18 antibody was able to neutralize 99.9 percent of Zika virus. Furthermore, when the antibody was given to pregnant mice, it was 100 percent effective at protecting their unborn pups from Zika-related birth defects.
“This is a very powerful antibody,” says senior study author Weizhou Zhang, of Zhejiang University. “It has the potential to be developed into a therapy for Zika virus infection.”
The next step, Zhang says, is to test the antibody in non-human primates to see if it is safe and effective. If all goes well, clinical trials in humans could begin within two years.