Anti-Zika Antibody Discovery May Lead to Treatment During Pregnancy

Although Zika is no longer a global emergency, it still remains a global threat. As a result, doctors and health officials are continuing to investigate ways to treat the condition. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded several studies to develop a Zika vaccine. In fact, several early-stage clinical trials are being conducted to study investigative vaccines.

NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recently helped fund a study designed to isolate antibodies that could neutralize Zika viruses. Led by Dr. James Crowe of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Michael Diamond of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the promising results of this antibody study were published in Nature.

Isolated Antibody in Blood Analysis

The scientists studied anti-Zika antibodies from the blood samples of eight patients who had recovered from Zika infection. One such antibody called ZIKV-117 proved to be especially effective in neutralizing Zika virus strains from Asia, Africa and America.

Testing ZIKV-117 in Mice

After isolating the ZIKV-117 antibody, scientists examined whether ZIKV-117 antibodies could conquer Zika infections in mice. To test this theory, they gave male mice a single dose of ZIKV-117 antibodies one or five days after Zika infection. Compared with mice that received a control antibody, the mice injected with the ZIKV-117 antibodies had viral protection and increased survival rates.

Next, the scientists assessed whether ZIKV-117 could protect a developing mouse fetus. To do so, they administered ZIKV-117 to pregnant mice one day before infection. This antibody treatment reduced virus levels in both the placenta and the fetal brain. The treated mice had less placental damage and fetuses that were larger in size. Plus, the antibodies did not seem to be harmful to the developing mice.

Promising Results for Zika Treatment During Pregnancy

According to Dr. Diamond, “This is proof of principle that Zika virus during pregnancy is treatable, and we already have a human antibody that treats it, at least in mice.” Medical researchers are hopeful that the discovery of the ZIKV-117 antibody will hasten the development of effective Zika prevention and treatment strategies. Of course, additional studies are needed to assess the antibody’s behavior in humans.

Ongoing Prevention and Protection Guidelines

At the present time, Zika has no known cure or effective treatment. If you are pregnant, continue to follow current health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which include avoiding areas with active Zika virus transmission and protecting against mosquito bites.

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