Research ArticleInfectious Disease

A Neutralizing Human Monoclonal Antibody Protects African Green Monkeys from Hendra Virus Challenge

Science Translational Medicine  19 Oct 2011:
Vol. 3, Issue 105, pp. 105ra103
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002901

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Outfoxing an Emerging Infectious Disease

A bat loses its home; a farm animal can’t breathe; a deadly pandemic infection is born. Beautiful and courageous scientists rush frantically to find a vaccine to stem the tide of the infection. Of such heady material, blockbusters like the current thriller Contagion are made. Yet parts of this scenario are rooted in reality. Hendra viruses naturally infect pteropid fruit bats (flying foxes) but cause lethal respiratory disease in horses, which may become infected after exposure to bat urine or birthing fluids. This infection can spread to humans in contact with the horses, leading to respiratory failure and encephalitis.

Indeed, since their discovery in Australia in 1994, Hendra viruses have been the star of an increasing number of spillover events, with at least 17 registered in 2011—more than all the previous years combined. Yet, unlike in the movies, Bossart et al. are ahead of the curve: They have developed a human therapeutic monoclonal antibody that can protect African green monkeys from disease. When treated up to 3 days after infection, the monkeys began to recover by day 16, and all treated monkeys survived the infection. In contrast, control monkeys succumbed to the disease by day 8 after infection. Although the authors’ therapeutic human antibody must undergo further dose and safety studies in both their animal model and humans, these studies provide a therapeutic option to treat emerging Hendra virus infections in people.


  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Present address: Sealy Center for Vaccine Development, Departments of Pathology and Microbiology & Immunology, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555–0610, USA.