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National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
http://www.niaid.nih.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Media Contact:
Ken Pekoc
(301) 402-1663
niaidnews@niaid.nih.gov
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NIAID MEDIA AVAILABILITY
Antibodies Protect Mice from Developing Respiratory Tularemia

WHAT:

The respiratory form of tularemia, a potentially serious bacterial disease, is a significant public health concern because it is highly infectious, it has a high mortality rate if untreated, and it could be introduced into a population in an intentional act of bioterror. Though much research is focused on developing drugs and vaccines targeted to the bacterium that causes tularemia, Francisella tularensis, little is known about the role that antibodies play in protecting against infection.

A research team led by Dennis W. Metzger, Ph.D., at the Albany Medical College in New York has now shown that treating laboratory mice with a serum containing tularemia-specific antibodies protects the mice against F. tularensis, not only if given before exposure to lethal doses of inhalational F. tularensis but also up to 48 hours after exposure. These findings suggest a possible alternative treatment approach to traditional antibiotics. In the absence of a licensed vaccine, such an approach might prove especially useful early on in the case of an intentional act of bioterrorism. The tularemia-specific antibodies may enhance an individual’s immune responses to the bacteria after exposure, in essence acting as a surrogate vaccine. Other advantages of this approach over conventional methods of treatment include the fact that it is rapid and specific; it could be used in people with weakened immune systems; and it minimizes the chances of contributing to treatment-resistant bacteria.

Funding for Dr. Metzger’s research was provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.

ARTICLE: “Prophylactic and therapeutic use of antibodies for protection against respiratory infection with Francisella tularensis,” by GS Kirimanjeswara et al. The Journal of Immunology 179:532-539 (2007).
SPOKESPERSON: Sam Perdue, Ph.D., Program Officer, Rickettsial and Related Diseases, NIAID Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.
CONTACT: To schedule interviews, contact Ken Pekoc in the NIAID News and Public Information Branch, (301) 402-1663, kpekoc@niaid.nih.gov.

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at www.niaid.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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Last Updated June 27, 2007