Zika Virus: Antibodies Produced to Combat Virus | Loyola Medicine
Monday, December 3, 2018

Researchers Produce Six Antibodies to Combat Zika Virus

Could be used to Test for and Treat Mosquito-borne Disease

Ravi Durvasula, MD
 
MAYWOOD, IL – Researchers have generated six Zika virus antibodies that could be used to test for and possibly treat a mosquito-borne disease that has infected more than 1.5 million people worldwide.

The antibodies "may have the dual utility as diagnostics capable of recognizing Zika virus subtypes and may be further developed to treat Zika virus infection," corresponding author Ravi Durvasula, MD, and colleagues report in a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Dr. Durvasula is professor and chair of the department of medicine of Loyola Medicine and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. First author is Adinarayana Kunamneni, PhD, a research assistant professor in Loyola's department of medicine.

Zika is spread mainly by mosquitos. Most infected people experience no symptoms or mild symptoms such as a rash, mild fever and red eyes. But infection during pregnancy can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects such as microcephaly.

Zika virus is a textbook example of an emerging disease that appears quickly, often in remote areas with little or no public health infrastructure. There is no effective vaccine or drug to treat the disease.

"The recent Zika virus outbreak is a health crisis with global repercussions," Drs. Durvasula, Kunamneni and colleagues write in the PLOS ONE study. "Rapid spread of the disease within the epidemic regions, coupled with migration of infected persons, has underscored the need for rapid, robust and inexpensive diagnostic tools and therapeutics."

Antibodies could be key to diagnosing and treating Zika virus. An antibody is a Y-shaped protein made by the immune system. When a virus, bacterium or other pathogen invades the body, antibodies bind to an antigen associated with the bug, marking it for the immune system to destroy.

Using a technology called ribosome display, researchers generated six synthetic antibodies that bind to the Zika virus. The antibodies, which are inexpensive to produce, could be used in a simple filter paper test to detect the Zika virus in the field. (If the filter paper turns color, the Zika virus is present.)

Because the Zika virus is evolving, it's useful to have six different antibodies. In the event the virus mutates, it's likely at least one of the antibodies still would match the virus and thus could still be used in diagnosis and treatment.

An antibody-based test for the Zika virus likely would be cheap and fast, and thus could easily be used to monitor mosquito populations for Zika. If the virus is present in an area, officials could respond by stepping up mosquito-abatement efforts. They also could educate the public – especially women who are pregnant or could become pregnant – on how to avoid mosquito bites by applying mosquito repellent, wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts, eliminating standing water, etc.

The antibodies are "neutralizing," meaning that when they bind to the Zika virus, they prevent the virus from infecting cells. This effectively renders the virus harmless. The neutralizing property potentially could lead to the development of a drug that an at-risk woman could take to prevent the virus from infecting her fetus.

It will take further research to validate the antibodies' potential for diagnosing and treating Zika virus, researchers said.

The study is titled, "Ribosome Display for the Rapid Generation of High-Affinity Zika-Neutralizing Single-Chain Antibodies."

In addition to Drs. Kunamneni and Durvasula, other co-authors are Chunyan Ye and Steven B. Bradfute, PhD, of the University of New Mexico.

 

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.