Scientists 'a step closer to developing chikungunya treatment'

A international team of 12 scientists from Singapore and France has discovered two monoclonal antibodies which can neutralise chikungunya, a disease spread by Aedes mosquito.

In fact, the two monoclonal antibodies, which were developed from single cells, could neutralise several strains of chikungunya in a laboratory setting, 'The Strait Times' reported online.

Chikungunya causes symptoms similar to those seen in dengue, such as fever, joint pains, chills and nausea. These last up to 10 days, although the joint pains may last weeks or even months. It then usually goes away on its own.

Prof Lucile Warter, who is leading the team from the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) and French pharmaceutical company Vivalis, said that the discovery of the antibodies is a big step forward in combating the disease.

The research started in August 2009 using B-cells -- specialised white blood cells with a central role in immunity. The cells were taken from an infected donor and given the ability to proliferate indefinitely, amplified and cloned.

The scientists then used the cells to identify and generate the antibodies using a specific technique of Vivalis. The technology helped to identify and generate human monoclonal antibodies, which are more efficient and have less side effects than conventional polyclonal drugs developed from multiple cells, said Prof Warter.

The scientists, whose research has been published in the 'Journal of Immunology', said that the treatment would not be a vaccine but a passive immunotherapy, adding the treatment could be in the market in 10 years.

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