July 5 - Scientists in Singapore say they have discovered a powerful antibody in recovered dengue patients that could lead to a cure for the deadly disease. The researchers, from the National University of Singapore and Duke University, say the antibody smothers the virus, effectively stopping it in its tracks. Ben Gruber reports.
***EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL*** Scientists in Singapore have found a powerful antibody in recovered dengue fever patients, a discovery they say is the first step towards a cure for the disease. According to the World Health Organisation, the dengue virus, which is spread by mosquitos, kills more than 20,000 people every year. The lead scientist on the research, Paul MacAry, describes how the antibodies combat the disease. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE DEPARTMENT OF MICROBIOLOGY LEAD SCIENTIST PAUL MACARY SAYING: "By binding the two glycoproteins on the surface of the virus, you essentially block the virus from infecting new cells and new tissues, and that's how the antibody works. It blocks and neutralises the virus." Currently, doctors can only treat the high fevers and severe headaches associated with dengue. The researchers say the antibody discovery will allow them to move past treating symptoms and eventually attack the virus on a cellular level. MacAry says the crucial test will be the long term impact of the antibody, an answer they hope to obtain from upcoming clinical trials. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE DEPARTMENT OF MICROBIOLOGY LEAD SCIENTIST PAUL MACARY SAYING: "I think the thing we can be very confident of is, when we put this antibody into patients, it's going to do what antibodies do. It's going to bind to its target, and in this case, it's target is the dengue virus. And it's going to affect a removal of that virus from the patient's blood. The critical question is, what happens when you remove the virus from the blood? Does it impact upon the disease? This will be the critical question that will be addressed as part of the clinical trial. The hope is, of course, if you remove the virus, you will stop the disease. But until you do the trial, you can never be sure." If the trials prove successful, Leo Yee Sin, the clinical director at Singapore's Communicable Disease Centre, says there is another major hurdle - finding a way to mass produce the antibodies. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CLINICAL DIRECTOR AT COMMUNICABLE DISEASE CENTRE LEO YEE SIN, SAYING: "At this point in time, I think the essential thing is to massively produce this larger quantities of human antibodies. And at this point in time, it is a costly exercise." The scientists are confident they will reach their goals and expect to have a cure for all four types of dengue fever...within a decade. Ben Gruber, Reuters.