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Medicine & Science
A Visit with Dr. Thomas Geisbert
by Jim and Lynda Guidry
Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Guidry News Service recently visited with Dr. Thomas Geisbert to discuss a new study titled, "Therapeutic Treatment of Nipah Virus Infection in Nonhuman Primates with a Neutralizing Human Monoclonal Antibody,” which was published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

“What makes this study unique is that we have achieved complete protection against death, even in animals that received treatment five days after being infected with the Nipah virus, when they otherwise would have succumbed within 8-10 days of infection,” Dr. Geisbert said.

Nipah virus and the closely related Hendra virus are naturally found in Pteropid fruit bats, known as flying foxes.  They are considered "emerging viruses" and are capable of causing severe illness and death in a variety of domestic animals and in humans.

During the interview in his office at the Galveston National Laboratory, Dr. Geisbert said today's publication is to announce the first therapeutic treatment of Nipah virus in non-human primates, explaining that the project began several years ago with the work of Dr Christopher Broder of the Uniformed Services University. Listen (11:07)

“He developed, in collaboration with some other colleagues, a neutralizing monoclone antibody that combated Nipah virus infection,” Dr. Geisbert said.  “Some of the first studies that were done were to show that this antibody was effective against Nipah virus in cell culture.”

He said that work then extended into animal studies.

“The gold standard animal model for just about any of the BSL 4 viruses, the really exotic highly pathogenic viruses that we work with, is non-human primates,” Dr. Geisbert explained.

He said the antibody has been effective in animal tests regarding the Nipah virus; and has also shown promise with its sister virus, the Hendra virus.

“It’s a problem in Australia where it’s transmitted from bats to horses,” Dr. Geisbert said, reporting that the antibody has been used to treat veterinarians who have contacted the virus. “We’re very excited about this breakthrough.”  

He said the next steps would require additional funding and FDA approval for Phase One human trials of the antibody in the United States.

The collaborative research team members are from UTMB and the GNL; the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Rocky Mountain Laboratories; and the National Cancer Institute. 

For the official news release on this research Click Here

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