MERS CoV Cure News Update: 2 Treatments 'Show Early Promise'

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Jul 02, 2015 08:49 PM EDT

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 18: A woman wears a mask as a precaution to protect them against the MERS virus in downtown Seoul on June 18, 2015 South Korea. WHO announced it does not recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions and considers screening at points of entry to be unnecessary as of June 18, 2015. South Korea said 23 people have died from Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and more than 160 have been diagnosed with MERS as of June 18, 2015. (Photo : Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

As the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak continues to ravage South Korea, researchers have found and validated two potential treatments that could prevent and cure the dreaded virus.

Scientists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Tarrytown and New York-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. were able to neutralize the virus using two antibodies named REGN3051 and REGN3048. The two potential antibodies and their respective findings were published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"While early, this is very exciting, and has real potential to help MERS patients," said Prof. Mathew B. Frieman, PhD., assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine via Science Daily.

Prof Frieman adds that he aims for the research on the antibodies to be successful so that it can be used to treat patients with the virus.

According to previous research, MERS and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are caused by coronaviruses that can cause fatal respiratory conditions. To make progress on the research, the scientists will be modifying mice to infect them with the virus so they can study the effectiveness of the potential treatments as well as take a look at how the disease develops in the body.

"Mice are typically not susceptible to MERS," said Frieman, in the press release. "This new mouse model will significantly boost our ability to study potential treatments and help scientists to understand how the virus causes disease in people."

According to the International Business Times, the treatment was found to be effective in MERS-infected mice, but is not clear if it could be effective in humans. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals used their own equipment and process to shorten the development of the antibodies so it can be used by an infected body in case it cannot produce its own antibodies to fight off an infection.

"Instead of just trying to invent new drugs, we also invent new technologies that enable us to make new drugs more reliably and more rapidly," said Neil Stahl, vice president of research and development at Regeneron.

The South Korean MERS outbreak began last May when a 68-year-old man, who returned to Seoul from his travels to the Middle East, was diagnosed with viral infection symptoms last May 20. According to the latest tally, the infected has risen to 183 and the death toll to 32 since the outbreak began, another IBT report states.

South Korea's outbreak is considered to be the second largest infection incident outside of the Arabian Peninsula.

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