Dr Edward Wright, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, and his group have just published a study that identifies antibodies that could inhibit the rabies virus in humans.

Despite effective vaccines being available, rabies is still responsible for 60,000 deaths globally each year. Work within Dr Wright’s group seeks to develop tests that will allow the study of dangerous viruses, such as rabies, without the need for high containment laboratories.

These tests have previously been used to answer important cell biology and epidemiology questions. On the back of this, Dr Wright was invited to the World Health Organisation in Geneva at the start of April to discuss developing these tests as a platform for future responses to emerging virus outbreaks.

The current study undertaken in collaboration with HUMABS BioMed, sought to develop an improved treatment for people exposed to the rabies virus. The results show that the new antibody-based treatment is highly effective in laboratory experiments. It also overcame major issues associated with existing treatments, namely high costs and limited supply.

Talking about the research, Dr Wright said: “Rabies remains a huge public health concern particularly in Africa and Asia.

“While we have good vaccines there are disadvantages associated with existing post-exposure treatments. The antibodies we have isolated and characterised overcome these issues.

“Further to this, we have shown they can inhibit a much wider spectrum of the rabies viruses and are up to 1000 times more potent that existing treatments.”

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