Hands on deck to prevent another viral tsunami

Emobileclinic Health News

Emobileclinic Reporter: Femi Fayomi

Respite might soon come on the management of an Ebola-like deadly disease; the Argentine hemorrhagic fever as Scientist’s findings on a laboratory study on guinea pigs announced that an experimental drug has been found which could treat the deadly disease that has a death rate of 20 to 30%. The findings are based on lab studies of guinea pigs. However, the researchers could not confirm when the treatment might advance to human trials. The finding is recorded in the April 4 proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It was submitted that there is a vital need for new ways to battle Argentine hemorrhagic fever, which is caused by a virus called Junin. No known drug has been found against it; the only treatment is through the build-up of antibodies against the virus. Dr. Larry Zeitlin, a lead researcher of the new study says the plasma transfusion from someone who has survived the disease has been effective.

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Junin virus broke out in the rural areas in Argentina and, has been confined to that country at the moment. The virus is carried by certain rodents, and humans can become sick if they come in contact with contaminated droppings, urine or saliva. In Argentina, about 10 to 50 people are infected with Junin virus annually, according Dr. Delia Enria, a scientist with Argentina’s National Laboratories and Health Institutes Administration, who also worked on the study. This appears insignificant, but it has spread to a larger part in the country. This is a possibility of another epidemic. This is why Zeitlin remarks that “as we’ve seen with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the ongoing Zika epidemic, it’s very difficult to predict when and where viruses like these will spread,” he said. Junin “is not a virus I lose sleep over, but it’s one to keep a watchful eye on.”

Junin’s symptoms vary, but most often include high fever, dizziness and fatigue. It may also lead to internal bleeding and neurological complications, such as delirium and seizures. Junin infection has a death rate of 20 percent to 30 percent. Like ZMapp, the experimental drug against Junin is a monoclonal antibody. The monoclonal antibody against Junin, dubbed J199 and was isolated from mice exposed to a key Junin protein, then genetically altered to make it more like a human antibody, the researchers said.

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The drug was tested on guinea pigs infected with Junin, the antibody prevented death in all of the animals within six days and on the 7th the survival rate was 92%. The concern now is if J199 would advance to human testing any time soon? The researcher acknowledges that “drug development is very expensive and it may be challenging to move J199 much further along,” “We may need to ‘park’ J199, so it’s available for rapid advancement should a large-scale Junin outbreak occur.”

The researchers were of the view that attention should be on finding a “broad-spectrum” antibody against Junin and other viruses in the same family, which are also on the U.S. government’s list of possible bioterror weapons.


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