As the South Korean epidemic of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) continues unabated, researchers have raced to find treatments for the deadly virus, which has killed more than 400 people since it was first discovered three years ago in Saudi Arabia. Now, scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., have discovered and validated two therapeutics that show early promise in preventing and treating the disease, which can cause severe respiratory symptoms, and has a death rate of 40 percent. These therapeutics are the first to succeed in protecting and treating animal models of the MERS virus. The study was published on June 29, 2015 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). "While early, this is very exciting, and has real potential to help MERS patients," says a lead researcher on the study, Matthew B. Frieman, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM). "We hope that clinical study will progress on these two antibodies to see whether they can eventually be used to help humans infected with the virus." The two antibodies, REGN3051 and REGN3048, showed an ability to neutralize the virus. This research, done in collaboration with Regeneron, a biopharmaceutical company based in Tarrytown, New York, used several of the company's proprietary technologies to search for and validate effective antibodies targeting the virus. MERS was first discovered in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. It appears that the disease spread to humans from camels, who may themselves have been infected by bats. Research has shown that MERS is similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS); both are caused by Coronaviruses, both cause respiratory problems, and both are often fatal.
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