Biotech Updates

Researchers Use Tobacco Plants to Combat Ebola Outbreak

September 3, 2014

Ebola virus causing hemorrhagic fever is fast spreading in some areas of Africa since December 2013 leading to over 1,000 deaths. Thus, scientists are speeding up the development of drugs and vaccines that could end the outbreak.

One of the popular drugs under experimental testing is known as ZMapp developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical in San Diego, California. In a research article published at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research team describes a proof-of-concept for using a mixture of antibodies to prevent lethal disease in monkeys. When administered one hour after infection, all animals survived. Two-thirds of the animals were protected even when the treatment, known as MB-003, was administered 48 hours after infection.

Kentucky BioProcessing improved the antibody efficacy using tobacco plants. The tobacco plants are "infected" with the protein known to battle Ebola and reproduce it like a photocopier. This new development process significantly decreases the amount of time required for production, increases the quantity of antibody produced, and reduces the cost of manufacturing.

ZMapp is not yet approved for use but drug approval testing protocols are expected to be implemented this year.

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