Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have isolated human monoclonal antibodies that potentially can prevent a rare, but devastating, polio-like illness in children linked to a respiratory viral infection. The results have been published as the cover story of the July 3, 2020 issue of Science Immunology, and the article is titled “Human Antibodies Neutralize Enterovirus D68 and Protect Against Infection and Paralytic Disease.” The illness, called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), causes sudden weakness in the arms and legs following a fever or respiratory illness. More than 600 cases have been identified since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began tracking the disease in 2014. There is no specific treatment for AFM, which tends to strike in the late summer or early fall, and which has been associated with some deaths. However, the disease has recently been linked to a group of respiratory viruses called enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). Researchers at the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center isolated antibody-producing blood cells from the blood of children who had previously been infected by EV-D68. By fusing the blood cells to fast-growing myeloma cells, the researchers were able to generate a panel of monoclonal antibodies that potently neutralized the virus in laboratory studies. Colleagues at Purdue determined the structure of the antibodies, which shed light on how they specifically recognize and bind to EV-D68. One of the antibodies protected mice from respiratory and neurologic disease when given either before or after infection by the enterovirus.
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