Thanks to cows, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said there may be a potential treatment for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) after research demonstrated its safety and tolerability in clinical trial volunteers.
MERS was first detected in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and spread to 27 nations, killing hundreds and sickening thousands according to the World Health Organization (WHO); approved treatments do not yet exist, an NIAID release said.
The infection is caused by a coronavirus, consisting of a group of RNA viruses capable of causing disease in both humans and animals. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), widely known following an outbreak in 2002-03, is another example of a coronavirus-caused respiratory disease.
The experimental remedy, called SAB-301, was derived from cattle plasma by SAB Biotherapeutics, a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, company, the NIAID release said. The SAB research team utilized livestock with altered genes called transchromosomic cattle; the animals were rendered capable of producing human antibodies rather than cow antibodies after their genetics were modified.
For the clinical trial, 28 healthy volunteers received an investigational treatment while 10 were given a placebo, with all subjects monitored over the course of 90 days, the release said. Side effects proved mild and tolerable, consisting of such symptoms as a headache or common cold, and SAB reported plans to continue with a larger study, according to the release.