Mouse antibodies thwart SARS virus

NOTE TO REPORTERS/EDITORS: The embargo for this release has been lifted.The mouse immune system develops antibodies capable of single-handedly neutralizing the SARS virus, researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) report in the April 1 issue of the Journal of Virology, available online March 12. NIAID is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This discovery affirms that researchers developing vaccines that trigger antibodies to the SARS virus are heading in the right direction. Vaccines can stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies or specialized cells or both to stop invading viruses.

"Since SARS emerged in people in late 2002, global public health experts have been anxiously awaiting a vaccine for this potentially fatal respiratory ailment. Knowing which arm of the immune system to trigger brings us one step closer to that goal," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

"This is good news for people developing vaccines that would prime the immune system to produce antibodies against the SARS virus," says Kanta Subbarao, M.D., an investigator in NIAID's Laboratory of Infectious Diseases and lead author on the study. "Our results also indicate that drug researchers can use laboratory mice as a model to evaluate whether a drug blocks SARS." Both findings could help lessen the time it takes to develop an effective vaccine or antiviral drugs for SARS.

In collaboration with colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NIH Clinical Center, Dr. Subbarao's team examined whether mice could be infected with the SARS virus and if so, how the mouse immune system responded. Initial experiments revealed that while the SARS virus did not make the mice sick, it was able to infect cells lining mouse airways and lungs to reproduce itself.

Next, the NIAID team gave a subset of the mice a second dose of the SARS virus 28 days later. This time they found

Contact: Linda Joy
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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