Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have identified and validated two candidate therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of MERS.
MERS is caused by a virus known as MERS-Coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, and is related to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus. MERS is new to humans and is believed to have crossed over from camels, although other hosts, like bats, cannot be ruled out. MERS originated in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to quite a few countries in the world. MERS is known to spread through direct contact with infected animals by eating undercooked contaminated meat, by drinking milk from infected animals, and direct human-human contact. MERS infections have a fatality rate of 40-60%. At the present time, there is a MERS epidemic in South Korea.
The need to find a cure for MERS has inspired researchers worldwide. In the study being discussed here, scientists
- Applied two technologies, VelocImmune and VelocGene, to rapidly develop and evaluate antibodies against a new virus disease.
- Successfully created a mouse model of MERS, which will help researchers understand the disease better.
- Generated two antibodies REGN 3048 and REGN 3051, which are able to neutralize the MERS virus.
Professor Mathew Frieman, one of the authors in the study, is considered a leading expert on SARS, MERS and other emerging viral epidemics. Professor Frieman said to University of Maryland News, “Mice are typically not susceptible to MERS. This new mouse model will significantly boost our ability to study potential treatments and help scientists to understand how the virus causes disease in people.”
Professor Frieman, continues, “While early, this (the development of antibodies) is very exciting, and has real potential to help MERS patients. We hope that clinical study will progress on these two antibodies to see whether they can eventually be used to help humans infected with the virus.”
The obvious next step is to take the therapeutics to clinical trials. If found successful, they will mark a significant step forward in the treatment of MERS. Additionally, the success of the antibodies in prevention/treatment of MERS will prove that the techniques and knowledge gained from the study can be used to combat emerging epidemics.
Written by Mangala Sarkar Ph.D.
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