Researchers discovered a powerful antibody capable of neutralising the dengue serotype 3 virus (DENV-3). This finding opens newer possibilities for developing a more effective treatment against the deadly pathogen.
By studying blood samples from a dengue infected patient, the researchers have isolated antibody 5J7 from 200 different candidate antibody molecules. It appeared this antibody is highly effective in neutralising and killing DENV-3, even in small quantities of 10 or 9 grams.
“Our study reveals a highly effective and unusual mechanism of molecular recognition by an antibody,” said the researchers.
Further observation using a powerful microscope revealed that the antibody has several arm-like structures. Each arm is surprisingly effective in binding to all three surface proteins of DENV-3. Note that surface proteins are critical components used by the virus to invade cells.
“This kind of binding with the virus has never been observed and it explains why the antibody itself is so highly potent,” said Shee Mei Lok, senior author and associate professor at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. “The movement of virus surface proteins is highly essential for invading cells—you can think of antibody 5J7 locking the virus surface protein, thus strapping the virus.”
While antibody 5J7 is effective against DENV-3, there is also a need to consider other serotypes of dengue virus, specifically DENV-2 and DENV-4.
Lok has earlier identified an antibody that works against DENV-1. She is currently collaborating with different researchers to identify other potent antibodies that will work against all dengue serotypes—from DENV-1 to DENV-4.
“We are optimistic that we will make a treatment breakthrough within the next few years but antibodies against all the other serotypes have to be identified first,” said Lok.
The dengue virus causes fever, rashes, joint pains, and in severe cases, bleeding and shock. Over the last 50 years, dengue incidents have increased 30 times across the world. The disease is endemic in about 100 countries and remains a major hurdle of healthcare systems as it affects 400 million every year.
There are currently no licensed vaccines or therapeutic drugs for effectively treating the dreaded dengue disease.
Additional details of the research are found in the article “A highly potent human antibody neutralizes dengue virus serotype 3 by binding across three surface proteins” published in the journal Nature Communications. Guntur Fibriansah is the lead author and he is joined with other researchers from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, the University of North Carolina, and Vanderbilt University. Photo credit: Guntur Fibriansah/Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School