Protective antibodies for the rare children’s disease – flaccid myelitis – have been identified by researchers, who hope the find could lead to future therapeutics.
The human monoclonal antibodies have been isolated by the team at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Purdue University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which could potentially prevent a rare polio-like illness – flaccid myelitis – in children which has been linked to a respiratory viral infection.
Richard Kuhn, Purdue’s Trent and Judith Anderson Distinguished Professor in Science; Krenicki Family Director, Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease, said: “Studying infectious disease from a very basic level and applying the results in an animal model of disease is very powerful; hopefully, our studies will translate to a future therapeutic for this disease in children.”
The paper has been published in the journal Science Immunology.
Potential future treatment
Since 2014, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking the disease, finding more than 600 cases across the country. Flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a disease which causes sudden weakness in the arms and legs following a fever or respiratory illness and strikes in the late summer or early autumn. The disease has been associated with some deaths.
Currently, there is no treatment for AFM, however, it has recently been linked to a group of respiratory viruses called enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).
The researchers isolated antibody-producing blood cells from the blood of children who had previously been infected by EV-D68, generating a panel of monoclonal antibodies that neutralised the virus in laboratory studies. The research team at Purdue also determined the structure of the antibodies. This shed light on how the antibodies specifically recognise and bind to EV-D68 – one of which protected mice from respiratory and neurologic disease when given either before or after infection by the enterovirus.
Dr James Crowe, director, Vanderbilt Vaccine Center; Ann Scott Carell Chair and professor of Pediatrics and Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said: “We were excited to isolate potent human antibodies that inhibit this devastating polio-like virus, and these studies will form the basis for taking them forward to clinical trials.”