Nanobody Test Able to Identify Known (And Unknown!) Ebola Species

Six years ago, researchers began developing single-domain antibodies (nanobodies) to help identify different species of Ebola; their work can be found published in ACS Infectious DiseasesInitially, the nanobodies were created to help identify five known Ebola species. However, as the work progressed, the researchers found that the nanobody test had more far-reaching applications. In fact, shares Chemical & Engineering News, the tests were able to identify a sixth – and previously unknown – species. Ultimately, researchers believe that through these antibody tests, they can more quickly identify outbreaks. Further, this would help scientists develop more targeted vaccinations and treatment options. If this was efficacious, it could slow the spread of outbreaks in areas where Ebola is endemic, such as West and Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Researchers from the Texas Biomedical Research Institute created the test to detect a type of nucleoprotein produced by varied Ebola viruses. First, the researchers sourced and purified nucleoproteins taken from the five known species. Next, llamas were injected with these nucleoproteins. Once the llamas created antibodies to the Ebola virus, the researchers analyzed and evaluated these, later cloning antibody fragments to create nanobodies. Two nanobodies stuck out to the researchers as being highly able to detect the virus within the body.

Next, researchers engineered the nanobodies to turn fluorescent green when they detected viral cells. During this span of research, the research team discovered the sixth subtype – known as Bombali. In the past, this subtype has been linked to viral infection in animals, though it has not yet affected humans.

More research is needed to determine the efficacy of nanobodies in identifying infection, or whether these could eventually be used to develop therapies for those facing Ebola. However, the current research does highlight the potential of these nanobodies to detect the disease and manage outbreaks, improving overall health and reducing mortality in affected areas.

About Ebola

Also called Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) or Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by ebolavirus infection. Researchers are actually unsure where viruses within the ebolavirus genus initially came from. However, many believe that these viruses have origins in animals. Ebola may affect humans and non-human primates. This serious infection is spread through bodily fluid from an infected individual or animal. It may also be spread through sexual contact. 

Typically, symptoms of Ebola manifest between 2-21 days following infection. However, symptoms most often appear between 8-10 days following infection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola comes with an estimated 50% fatality rate. Treatments and preventative measures include the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, intravenous fluids and electrolytes, oxygen therapy, and a variety of different medications.

When symptoms appear, they typically begin dry (fever, fatigue) and progress to wet (vomiting). Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Muscle, joint, and abdominal pain
  • General bodily achiness and weakness
  • Severe headache
  • Debilitating fatigue
  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unexplained hemorrhaging, bruising, or bleeding
  • Sore throat
  • Eye redness
  • Skin rashes
  • Hiccups (often found in late-stage Ebola)
Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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