In a first, scientists have developed an effective, rapid and economical treatment for the deadly Ebola virus using antibodies from horses.
The post-exposure treatment made with antibodies from horses could be used in the next Ebola outbreak, researchers said.
“This is a cost-effective treatment that can be used in low-income countries in Africa where equine production facilities are already in operation for producing snake-bite antivenin,” said Alexander Khromykh, Professor at University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia.
“It’s the first time that equine antibodies have been shown to work effectively against Ebola infection,” Khromykh said.
The largest recorded outbreak of Ebola virus occurred primarily in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, infecting 30,000 people and killing more than 11,000, with exported cases in Europe and North America.
Khromykh said this led to the development of monoclonal antibodies that were used in the UK to treat infected health workers returning from Africa.
“The down side is that monoclonal antibodies require considerable investment for scale-up and manufacture, and are expensive,” Khromykh said.
“Equine antibodies are a considerably cheaper alternative, with manufacturing capacity already in place in Africa.
“Antibodies from vaccinated horses provide a low-cost alternative, and are already in use for rabies, botulism and diphtheria,” he said.
Professor Paul Young, who was part of the UQ research team, said the finding offered great hope as a rapid treatment option for Ebola patients.
“It’s a significant advance on the way we think about responding to urgent disease threats, and could be applied to the treatment of other infectious diseases,” Young said.
“It is also a far more appropriate option for resource-poor settings,” he said.
Khromykh’s team has previously developed an experimental Ebola vaccine made using an Australian virus called Kunjin, that might also help in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus.
The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.