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Biological Chemistry

An antibody for fighting Junin virus

Therapy effective at treating Argentine hemorrhagic fever in guinea pigs up to seven days after infection

by Bethany Halford
April 11, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 15

Argentine hemorrhagic fever was discovered in the 1950s, and it hasn’t spread beyond Argentina’s borders since. But the illness’s mortality rate—which can be as high as 30%—has public health officials worried. The fever is caused by Junin virus and transmitted by rodents through their saliva and droppings, so it could spread outside its current range or could be used for bioterrorism. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has not approved a treatment for Argentine hemorrhagic fever. Patients treated with blood plasma collected from survivors of the illness have a mortality rate of about 1%, but the supply of such plasma is limited. Researchers led by Larry Zeitlin of Mapp Biopharmaceutical, in San Diego, and Thomas W. Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch now report they’ve developed a monoclonal antibody that can prevent the fever in guinea pigs infected with Junin virus up to a week after exposure (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2016, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1600996113). The researchers estimate that a course of the antibody therapy could cost less than $200.


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