Research ArticleEbola virus

Successful Treatment of Ebola Virus–Infected Cynomolgus Macaques with Monoclonal Antibodies

Science Translational Medicine  13 Jun 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 138, pp. 138ra81
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003876

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A Race Against Time

Although rare, Ebola infection figures prominently in the public’s fear of an infectious disease outbreak because of its marked, rapid, and fatal manifestation. This fear is fueled by our complete helplessness when it comes to fighting Ebola—there’s no vaccine, and any treatment options we do have only work if administered within minutes—or at most hours—after infection. Qiu et al. address this impotence head-on by demonstrating that administration of a three-antibody cocktail to macaques within 24 hours of infection yields 100% survival.

The authors treated the macaques 24 or 48 hours after Ebola virus challenge with a virus-neutralizing antibody cocktail (ZMab). The three antibodies in the mix each bind to distinct regions of the Ebola envelop glycoprotein (GP) and show efficacy in small-animal models. When the cocktail was given at 24 hours after infection, 100% of the monkeys survived; if the same dose of the cocktail was administered 48 hours after infection, the survival rate was 50%. Surviving macaques developed both Ebola-specific antibodies and T cell responses, which suggests that the passive neutralizing antibody transfer may keep the virus in check long enough for endogenous immunity to take over. Timing, dose, and composition must be optimized before this therapy moves into humans, but the new findings add sand to the hourglass and provide hope for an expanded treatment window for Ebola virus infection.