Research ArticleEbola

Immune Parameters Correlate with Protection Against Ebola Virus Infection in Rodents and Nonhuman Primates

Science Translational Medicine  31 Oct 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 158, pp. 158ra146
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3004582

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Protecting Against the Zombie Apocalypse

Halloween can wreak havoc on the imagination. The advent of seasonal symptoms—spontaneous moaning, slow jerky movements, and the desire to eat the brains of your co-workers—can convince you that you’re turning into a zombie. While there are no treatments for the prevention of zombieism, when the holiday passes, symptoms of this fictional disease fade. But dire diseases—real ones—with equally horrific symptoms persist after trick-or-treat, because there are no corresponding vaccines or drug treatments. Now, Wong et al. show that for ebolavirus infections, which can cause a nightmarish fever frightening enough to be Halloween-worthy, researchers are making progress.

There are currently no licensed vaccines or treatments that prevent or cure infection with Zaire ebolavirus (ZEBOV) in human patients. Experimental vaccines have been successful in animal models of hemorrhagic fever. But how can one test the efficacy of these vaccines in people without exposing them to a potentially fatal disease? Wong et al. report on an important translational step toward vaccine testing. The authors detected specific antibody responses to ZEBOV that correlate with survival in multiple animal models (mouse, guinea pig, and nonhuman primates). Much work remains to be done to determine whether these observations hold true in people. But if they do, these immune responses may be used as surrogates for testing a successful vaccine.