Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine recently found a potential new treatment for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that uses genetically modified cows to produce antibodies to fight the infection.
The new approach protected mice from the infection during the study, as published in Science Translational Medicine journal.
The genetically modified cows are able to mimic specific segments of the immune system in humans. Researchers injected the cows with a MERS vaccine so the animals would produce large volumes of anti-MERS antibodies. Then, the researchers purified the antibodies to create the therapy that was used in mice infected with MERS.
Four years ago, scientists discovered MERS in Saudi Arabia. Since then, approximately 600 people have died because of the disease. In 2015, a MERS epidemic in South Korea killed over 30 people; this outbreak started with a person traveling back from Saudi Arabia, transmitting the disease to hundreds of people in South Korea.
"These results are very promising," Dr. Matthew B. Frieman, one of the lead researchers on the study and an Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Maryland's medical school, said. "This is important not only because it gives us a potential way to attack MERS, but also because it provides evidence that using these transgenic cows can rapidly produce therapeutics."