Research sheds light on how a human antibody neutralizes the Zika virus
The Zika virus (ZIKV) has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly and the severe autoimmune disease Guillian-Barré syndrome. One potential strategy to combat the dangerous virus is the use of neutralizing antibodies.
In 2016, researchers from Vanderbilt University, Washington University, and Integral Molecular isolated multiple antibodies from individuals previously infected with ZIKV. The antibodies reacted to the ZIKV envelope protein and showed high neutralizing activity. Experiments in cultured cells showed that one antibody, named ZIKV-117, broadly neutralized several different strains of the virus. When the researchers treated ZIKV-infected mice with ZIKV-117, they found that the antibody reduced disease, mortality, and mother-to-fetus transmission.
However, the molecular basis of how ZIKV-117 neutralizes ZIKV remains unknown. Vanderbilt and Washington University researchers then collaborated with Purdue University researchers to address the problem. In their paper published 16 Mar 2017 in Nature Communications, they present a high-resolution three-dimensional structure of ZIKV in complex with the Fab fragment of ZIKV-117. Understanding how neutralizing antibodies interfere with ZIKV infection would help develop new vaccines and treatments.
ZIKV is a mosquito-borne virus that belongs to the Flaviviridae family, which includes dengue, Japanese encephalitis, tick-borne encephalitis, West Nile and yellow fever viruses. It was first identified in a rhesus monkey in 1947. The recent ZIKV epidemic makes it a worldwide concern. Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment for it. Effective antiviral medications are in urgent need.
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