A genetically altered version of the tobacco plant might provide a relatively inexpensive cure for the rabies virus, according to a new science paper.
The research summary describes how scientists have produced a monoclonal antibody in transgenic (genetically modified) tobacco plants, that has been shown to neutralize the rabies virus. Early results indicate that the newly created antibody works by preventing the virus from attaching to nerve endings around the area where a bite by a rapid animal has occurred and keeps the virus from traveling from this site to the brain.
Tobacco plants are part of the genus Nicotiana. These are herbaceous plants and shrubs that grow in the Americas, Australia, south west Africa and the South Pacific.
The process of modifying the tobacco plant and then extracting and identifying the selected antibody was relative straightforward and inexpensive to develop. The antibody was purified from the plant leaves and characterized with regards to its protein and sugar composition.
Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute encephalitis in warm-blooded animals. The dcan be transmitted from one species to another, such as from dogs to humans, commonly by a bite from an infected animal. For a human, rabies is almost invariably fatal. The rabies virus travels to the brain by following the peripheral nerves.
The research was undertaken at the Hotung Molecular Immunology Unit at St. George's, University of London and supported by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
The findings have been published in The FASEB Journal. The paper is titled "Production, characterization, and antigen specificity of recombinant 62-71-3, a candidate monoclonal antibody for rabies prophylaxis in humans."