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Chilean scientists have discovered antibodies that protect Andas Hantavirus

This discovery can also be applied to people, said Maria Innes Barry, a microbiologist and co-ordinator of this research, which started in 2014, and whose first conclusions were published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The Hanta virus is an infection that transmits people's rodents and the Andes sub-type that affects the area of ​​Chilean and Argentinean Patagonia, is the only one that has been shown to spread among humans.

Aneous hantavirus infections result in an extremely dangerous condition known as hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (SCPH), which can cause fever, headache, low blood pressure, and heart and pulmonary weakness, which is a major concern due to high mortality rates.

Antibodies of the survivors

The results of the study showed that the antibodies of human survivors protected the animals from suffering from SCPH, even when administered after infection with the Hantavirus Andes.

This suggests that they can be used as a preventive treatment for post-exposure for a disease that currently has no medication, according to the research.

"Until now, there is no specific treatment for this infection, the only thing the doctor can do is supportive treatment in the ICU," Barría said.

In 2017, 90 people were infected with Andas hantavirus, of which 24 died from SCPH.

Vulnerable groups

The most vulnerable to this infection are people living in rural areas or working in agricultural or forest areas and have a higher incidence in young men.

The working method of the investigation was to isolate the antibodies of 27 patients who survived Andas hantavirus or who showed milder symptomatology.

The next step was to inject hamsters with a deadly dose of the virus and then give them human antibodies, and in all of them SCPH was stopped and they survived.

"The hamsters were used because it is a model that most resembles the symptomatology and pathology of humans," Barrie explained.

At present, the University of Concepcion also develops a dose that is suitable for humans and thus can test clinical trials of the effects of these isolated antibodies that have been so successful in rodents.

Also, once proven that the method prevents the development of SCPH after being infected by Andes hantavirus, scientists want to study in mice if it also works to prevent the infection of this virus.

"Our idea is to test it as prophylactic with animals to administer the dose before the infection, so that we increase the spectrum of the effects of these antibodies," Barría added, who hopes that this invention can develop a substance that prevents infection.

The expert pointed out that this could serve as a "short-term vaccine," because according to the characteristics of the antibodies "people will be protected in a short period of time".

"Even if the protection lasts for three weeks or up to two months, it will also be useful for risk groups: forest workers, agricultural workers, tourists who went to Patagonia or even face a major outbreak of Hunt," he added.

The researcher also states that this discovery could be a cure for other types of hanta present in Europe and Asia.

"The problem is not technology, desire or ideas, but the funding we need to find out how far this investigation can go," Barry concluded.

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