The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and three other groups within the National Institutes of Health have formed an interdisciplinary research team that now reports a new breakthrough to counteract the deadly Nipah virus. m102.4, a human monoclonal antibody, is the first effective antiviral treatment for Nipah with the potential for human therapeutic applications.
Nipah and Hendra viruses, which are closely related, are highly infectious agents. They emerged from Pteropid fruit bats in the 1990s, and have caused serious disease outbreaks in numerous domestic animals as well as humans in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, and India. Recent Nipah outbreaks have resulted in acute respiratory distress syndrome and encephalitis, person-to-person transmission, and fatality rates that surpass 90 percent among people. These characteristics make both Nipah and Hendra viruses a concern not only to human but also to livestock health.
These same researchers conducted previous studies in which they found that the patented m102.4 antibody therapy could be administered to nonhuman primates protecting them from a deadly Hendra infection. In a paper published in Science Translational Medicine on June 25, the researchers describe the human monoclonal antibody therapy that also worked in nonhuman primates protecting them from disease at several time points after being exposed to Nipah, including the onset of clinical illness in this lethal disease.
“What makes this study unique is that we have achieved complete protection against death even in animals that received treatment five days after being infected with the Nipah virus when they otherwise would have succumbed within 8-10 days of infection,” according to Dr. Thomas Geisbert, UTMB professor and lead author of the paper. “This recent success of the antibody therapy against Nipah virus disease in a nonhuman primate is a key step towards its development as a therapeutic for use in people.”
Christopher Broder, a USU professor who acted as Geisbert’s fellow senior author, said that, thanks to the new data along with previous work on this antibody with Hendra virus experiments, “there was sufficient interest for the Queensland government in Australia to initiate a phase I clinical safety trial with m102.4 that is set to commence later this year.”
Chad Mire, Joan Geisbert, Krystle Agans, Karla Fenton and Katharine Bossart from UTMB; Yee-Peng Chan from USU; and Friederike Feldmann, Zhongyu Zhu, Dimiter Dimitrov, Dana Scott and Heinz Feldmann from NIH have also been involved in this study. The research was supported by the Department of Health and Human Services and the NIH.