This breakthrough could also be applied to humans, said María Inés Barría, microbiologist and coordinator of this research, which began in 2014 and whose first findings were published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Hanta virus is an infection that transmits rodents to humans, and the Andean subtype, which affects Chilean and Argentinean Patagonia, is the only one that has been shown to be spread among humans as well.
Andes hantavirus infection leads to an extremely dangerous condition, known as cardiopulmonary hantavirus syndrome (SCPH), which can cause fever, headache, low blood pressure and heart and lung failure and which is a major concern due to the high rate mortality.
The results of the investigation have shown that human survival antibodies have protected animals from suffering SCPH even when administered after the Andes hantavirus infection.
This suggests that they could be used as a preventive post-exposure treatment for a disease that currently has no healing options, according to research.
So far, there is no specific treatment for this infection, the only thing the doctor can do is supportive treatment in the UTI, "Barría said.
In 2017, 90 people were infected with anta hantavirus, of which 24 died from SCPH.
The most vulnerable groups of this infection are people living in rural areas or working in agricultural or forest areas and having a higher incidence in young people.
The method of the investigation was to isolate the antibodies of 27 patients who survived the Andes hantavirus or have shown an easier symptomatology.
The next step was to inject hamsters with a lethal dose of virus and then give them human antibodies, and in all of them SCPH was prevented and survived.
"Hamsters have been used because the model looks the most like human symptom and pathology," Barría explained.
Currently, the University of Concepción also develops a dose that is suitable for humans and so may be able to test in a clinical trial the effects of these isolated antibodies that have been so successful in rodents.
Also, once it has been demonstrated that the method prevents the development of SCPH once it is infected with Andres hantavirus, scientists want to study in mice if they also work to prevent the infection of this virus.
"Our idea is to try and make a prophylaxis with the animals, to administer a dose before infection so as to increase the spectrum of action of these antibodies," added Barría, who hopes that through this discovery a substance to prevent infection.
The expert indicated that it could serve as a "short-term vaccine" because the antibody feature "people would be protected for a short period of time."
"Even if the protection lasts for three weeks or up to two months, it would also be useful for risk groups: forest workers, agricultural workers, tourists who went to Patagonia or even face a major outbreak of hunger," he added.
The researcher also said that this discovery could be the cure for other types of hanta in Europe and Asia.
"The problem is not technology, desire or ideas, but the funding we need to know how far this investigation can go," Barría concluded.
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