"This is a very important finding because it has the potential to be an effective treatment for smallpox in humans and therefore could help quickly stop a smallpox outbreak," said Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D, President of La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology (LIAI).
LIAI viral disease expert Dr. Shane Crotty and his team have discovered a protein in the smallpox virus - the H3 protein - that elicits a particularly strong human antibody response. "Out of the 200 or so proteins contained in the smallpox virus, we found that the H3 protein is a major target for antibodies that kill the virus," he said. No actual smallpox virus was used in the studies in order to avoid any potential danger of transmission.
Crotty made the findings by studying blood samples from people who had received the smallpox vaccine. "We used new techniques that we developed that made it easier to identify and isolate antibodies from the blood of immunised humans. Then we carefully screened for the antibodies that fight the smallpox virus," he said. The researchers then tested their findings by creating a batch of the anti-H3 protein antibodies, which they injected into mice. "We were able to protect them from a strain of vaccinia pox virus that is very similar to smallpox and which is lethal to mice."
Kronenberg said that if further study continues to validate the safety and effectiveness of Dr. Crotty's finding, "we may one day see high-quality batches of anti-H3 antibody stockpiled around the world right along side the supplies of smallpox vaccine.” Crotty's findings appear to offer a way to successfully treat the virus, Kronenberg said. "This could be very important should people become infected before they have a chance to be vaccinated."
MEDICA.de; Source: La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology