Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scientists may have hit on cure against Nipah and Hendra

Scientists may have hit on cure against Nipah and Hendra

October 25, 2011
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 ― Scientists may finally have a cure for the deadly Nipah and Hendra viruses, the New York Times (NYT) reported today.

Citing recent research, the US daily said a treatment using human antibodies had seen 12 monkeys injected with lethal doses of the two scariest new viruses survive the test.

The NYT added that emergency treatment on humans may also have saved the lives of an Australian mother and daughter who were exposed to a horse dying from one of the viruses. Both viruses are related.

The study was published in US journal Science Translational Medicine and has been backed by the National Institutes of Health, the newspaper said.

NYT added that the antibody, called m102.4, and fights both the Hendra and Nipah, which were discovered in the 1990s in fruit bats, also called flying foxes.

The Nipah virus was first discovered in April 1999 when it caused an outbreak in several Malaysian pig farms starting with Kampung Nipah in Negri Sembilan ― where it got its name ― and then spreading to other states and Singapore, resulting in 257 human cases, including 105 human deaths and the culling of one million pigs.

The virus usually infects pigs, which get it from food contaminated with bat droppings or urine. The fictional virus in the movie “Contagion”, which was recently screened here, was based on it.

The Hendra virus usually infects horses. It was discovered in September 1994 when it caused the deaths of thirteen horses, and a trainer at a training complex in Hendra, a suburb of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia.

Seven human cases have been confirmed; four were fatal. But an ongoing outbreak appears to have struck in Australia, resulting in over 70 horses suspected of being infected, killed.

The NYT reported that antibodies are expensive to make, adding that scientists are looking to develop more affordable cures.

Another treatment called peptides, which are easier to produce than antibodies, have worked in hamsters, according to the newspaper.

It noted two other 2009 studies found that chloroquine, a cheap malaria drug, worked in the laboratory but failed when tested on hamsters and ferrets.

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