In research that could inform prophylactic treatment approaches for pregnant women at risk of Zika virus infection, investigators conducted experiments in mice and identified six Zika virus antibodies, including four that neutralize African, Asian and American strains of the mosquito-borne virus. The team, supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, also developed atomic-level x-ray crystal structure images showing four of the antibodies in complex with three distinct regions (epitopes) of a key Zika protein. Structural information about antibody-epitope interactions is useful to vaccine developers because it provides a pathway for designing vaccines that can induce antibodies directed toward the critical epitopes. The research group headed by Michael S. Diamond, M.D., Ph.D., and Daved H. Fremont, Ph.D., of Washington University School of Medicine also found that two of the newly identified Zika antibodies could protect mice from Zika infection.
H Zhao et al. Structural basis of Zika virus specific antibody protection. Cell DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.07.020 (2016).
NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., and Dr. Pierson are available for comment.
This research was supported by the following NIH grants and contracts: R01 AI073755, R01432 AI104972, HHSN272201400018C, HHSN272201200026C, T32 AI007163 and R25 435 HG006687.