A University of Queensland researcher has developed the world's first specific immunotherapy product using monoclonal antibodies for the potentially lethal West Nile virus, which causes seasonal epidemics around the globe.
The mosquito-borne virus affects the central nervous systems of humans, horses and birds in North America, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
Dr Roy Hall, from UQ's School of Molecular and Microbial Sciences, has developed an immunotherapy treatment for the disease based on a monoclonal antibody that binds to the benign Australian Kunjin virus.
The treatment completely neutralised the West Nile virus and provided infected mice protection against the onset of symptoms, according to Dr Hall.
"We also believe it may be possible to reverse the symptoms of West Nile in animals such as horses, and we're about to begin trials to test this theory, administering the treatment to animals in various stages of infection," Dr Hall said.
Recognising the potential of the treatment, international animal health product manufacturer, Fort Dodge Animal Health, has licensed Dr Hall's treatment via UQ's commercial arm, UniQuest Pty Ltd.
Fort Dodge will test the treatment's effectiveness in horses and develop it for commercial sale to the equine industry, according to UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson.
"Horses are a large group affected by West Nile virus in the U.S., and Dr. Hall's treatment will complement Fort Dodge Animal Health's equine vaccine that protects against the disease," Mr Henderson said.
In addition, Dr Hall is developing a West Nile vaccine for humans with UQ's Associate Professor Alex Khromykh, which is undergoing preclinical trials. A West Nile diagnostic reagent also developed by Dr Hall has been licensed for sale in the U.S. and will be used to track the spread of the disease in animals and birds in North America.
Dr Hall said it was very satisfying to see his research being used in North America, where West Nile virus was a serious problem.
"Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before West Nile virus hits Australian shores but hopefully my research will help reduce the impact of the disease."
Source: Eurekalert & othersLast reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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