(ORDO NEWS) — Biologists have discovered an antibody unique in structure that can completely neutralize the Zika virus in cell cultures and in the body of experimental animals, even at ultra-low concentrations.
This molecule will serve as the basis for the creation of the first drugs for this disease, the press service of the American Cornell University.
“The antibody we discovered can be used in two ways. It can be used to quickly neutralize particles of the Zika virus in the bloodstream of already infected pregnant women or to prevent this disease in those regions of the Earth where Zika outbreaks occur,” said the professor at Cornell University in Ithaca.
(USA) Sally Permar, quoted by the press service of the university.
Zika fever, which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, was first identified in 1947 in Uganda. Outbreaks of the disease were subsequently recorded in Asia, Africa, South and North America, and also in the Pacific region.
The last major outbreak of the disease occurred in 2015-2016 in Latin America, where a dangerous side effect of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection, microcephaly, was discovered in children whose mothers contracted Zika during pregnancy.
Professor Permar and her colleagues found a solution to this problem while studying blood samples from ten pregnant women in Brazil who had Zika in 2015-2016 during the last major outbreak of the disease in Latin America.
Scientists have suggested that these samples may contain antibodies that can protect the fetus from the penetration of ZIKV particles into it.
Zika virus antibody
With these ideas in mind, molecular biologists have extracted antibodies from blood samples and analyzed how they interacted with different variations of the Zika causative agent.
These experiments led to the discovery of a unique DH1017 antibody, which in theory should not neutralize ZIKV particles, since it belongs to the IgM class of antibodies, whose molecules the body produces when it first encounters a pathogen.
In practice, as the first experiments with synthetic copies of the DH1017 molecule showed, this antibody actively associated with the envelope of the Zika virus and completely neutralized this pathogen even at ultra-low concentrations.
This happened both in cell culture experiments and in experiments on pregnant mice infected with lethal doses of ZIKV particles. Subsequent experiments indicated that the high efficiency of this antibody is due to its unique structure.
It allows these molecules to bind to the virus envelope using five separate amino acid chains, rather than two, as conventional IgG antiviral antibodies do, which increases the efficiency of DH1017 by about five times compared to its IgG counterparts.
In the near future, scientists plan to test the safety and effectiveness of these antibodies in experiments on monkeys and other animals.
The successful completion of these experiments will pave the way for clinical trials on volunteers, which is necessary for the introduction of DH1017 into medical practice, the biologists concluded.
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