A 12-year-old Australian girl and her mother are the first people to try an
experimental treatment for a deadly virus after the girl's horse died from the
infection, researchers said on Friday.
The virus, called Hendra virus,
emerged in Australia in the 1990s and can kill up to 75 percent of people
Christopher Broder of the Uniformed Services University of the
Health Sciences in the United States, and colleagues sent the treatment, an
engineered version of a human immune system protein, to the girl after hearing
about the viral outbreak.
Australian media said the girl and her mother
took the first doses of the drug on Thursday.
"There was an outbreak last
week in a horse in Australia," said Thomas Geisbert of Boston University, who
works with the team that developed the treatment. "We have a monoclonal antibody
that we have used in the lab."
The antibody was developed to work against
the closely related Nipah virus.
Hendra and Nipah viruses are carried by
a type of fruit bat commonly called flying foxes.
The viruses can cause
brain swelling and acute respiratory illness.
The monoclonal antibody
attaches to the virus and helps neutralize it. Until this week it had only been
tested in animals, but kept them from becoming ill after they were infected with
Geisbert and Australian media said the girl and her mother were
not sick but had been in close contact with the horse.
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