Researchers at a Swiss university have identified an antibody that neutralises the Mers virus, leading to hope that a cure may be found for the deadly respiratory disease.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) has killed approximately 500 people since it was identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, before spreading to neighbouring countries, and more recently to the Far East.
In a studyexternal link published in the scientific journal PNAS, researchers at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Bellinzona, which is part of the Università della Svizzera Italiana, said an antibody called LCA60 would bind to the virus’ cellular receptor.
The virus, which causes a lethal pulmonary infection, is believed to have been first transmitted to humans by camels. In 2013, it was branded by the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) as a “threat to the entire world.”
The Swiss scientists said the antibody could eventually be used as a preventative treatment, as well as following exposure to the virus.
“This antibody can be used for prophylaxis, for post-exposure prophylaxis of individuals at risk, or for the treatment of human cases of MERS-CoV infection,” the published report said.
The antibody was first isolated from a patient hospitalized with the virus in London for 200 days. It was then tested in mice, where researchers reported that injecting LCA60 significantly reduced the infection within their lungs.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, South Korea’s prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, announced that the threat posed to the country by the virus was over. More than 16,000 people had been isolated in hospital since an outbreak of the disease was declared in May.
New infections, were however, were identified in the Philippines at the beginning of the month.
swissinfo.ch and agencies