Protective antibodies identified for rare, polio-like disease in children

Antibodies for respiratory virus that can cause a rare polio-like disease that causes paralysis in children have been identified by a team of researchers at Purdue University, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Wisconsin. The virus, enterovirus 68, has binding sites for the antibodies. The structural analysis of the virus shows that the antibody binding sites (shown here in gold and blue) do not overlap. The Purdue University image by Richard Kuhn appeared on the July 2020 cover of Science Immunology.

The structure of antibodies for enterovirus D68 were determined by Purdue University researchers in the laboratory of Richard Kuhn, Purdue’s Trent and Judith Anderson Distinguished Professor in Science and Krenicki Family Director, Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease. The virus can cause a polio-like disease in children. The enterovirus antibodies were isolated from children who had previously had the disease by researchers at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Vaccine Center. Reprinted with permission from AAAS.

Bill Snyder, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Purdue University July 6, 2020

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have isolated human monoclonal antibodies that potentially can prevent a rare but devastating polio-like illness in children linked to a respiratory viral infection.

The illness, called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), causes sudden weakness in the arms and legs following a fever or respiratory illness. More than 600 cases have been identified since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began tracking the disease in 2014.

There is no specific treatment for AFM, which tends to strike in the late summer or early fall and which has been associated with some deaths. However, the disease has recently been linked to a group of respiratory viruses called enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).

Researchers at the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center isolated antibody-producing blood cells from the blood of children who had previously been infected by EV-D68. By fusing the blood cells to fast-growing myeloma cells, the researchers were able to generate a panel of monoclonal antibodies that potently neutralized the virus in laboratory studies.

Colleagues at Purdue determined the structure of the antibodies, which shed light on how they specifically recognize and bind to EV-D68. One of the antibodies protected mice from respiratory and neurologic disease when given either before or after infection by the enterovirus.

The findings, published Friday, July 3 in the journal Science Immunology, suggest that these antibodies potentially could prevent EV-D68 infection and AFM in humans.

Children’s ‘polio-like’ illness may return in August. But a new treatment will cost millions to test. Fenton McEvoy, 6, was paralyzed above the waist in 2018 after falling ill with what seemed like a common cold. The Georgia boy traveled to Philadelphia in 2019 for a nerve-transfer surgery, but it did not work. Brian McEvoy, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Comments from researchers

“We were excited to isolate potent human antibodies that inhibit this devastating polio-like virus, and these studies will form the basis for taking them forward to clinical trials,” Dr. James Crowe, director, Vanderbilt Vaccine Center; Ann Scott Carell Chair and professor of Pediatrics and Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“Studying infectious disease from a very basic level and applying the results in an animal model of disease is very powerful; hopefully, our studies will translate to a future therapeutic for this disease in children,” Richard Kuhn, Purdue’s Trent and Judith Anderson Distinguished Professor in Science; Krenicki Family Director, Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease

The study was supported by National Institutes of Health grants HL069765, AI117905, HL070831, AI104317 and AI011219, and the Center for Structural Genomics of Infectious Diseases.
About Purdue University
Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at
About Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers and is one of the largest comprehensive research, teaching and patient care health systems in the Southeast. The most heavily utilized quaternary, referral healthcare facility in the Mid-South, VUMC’s sees over 2.3 million patient visits per year in over 150 locations, discharging 66,000 inpatients and performing 67,000 surgical operations. The medical center is the largest non-governmental employer of Middle Tennessee citizens, with more than 25,000 staff, 2,000 of which are physicians, advanced practice nurses and scientists appointed to the Vanderbilt University faculty. For more information and the latest news follow VUMC on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and in the VUMC Reporter.

Source Purdue University


Human antibodies neutralize enterovirus D68 and protect against infection and paralytic disease, Vogt MR, Fu J, Kose N, Williamson LE, Bombardi R, Setliff I, Georgiev IS, Klose T, Rossmann MG, Bochkov YA, Gern JE, Kuhn RJ, Crowe JE Jr. Sci Immunol. 2020 Jul 3;5(49):eaba4902. doi: 10.1126/sciimmunol.aba4902.

  Further reading

Understanding Enterovirus D68-Induced Neurologic Disease: A Basic Science Review, Hixon AM, Frost J, Rudy MJ, Messacar K, Clarke P, Tyler KL. Viruses. 2019 Sep 4;11(9):821. doi: 10.3390/v11090821. Full text

Contemporary Circulating Enterovirus D68 Strains Have Acquired the Capacity for Viral Entry and Replication in Human Neuronal Cells, Brown DM, Hixon AM, Oldfield LM, Zhang Y, Novotny M, Wang W, Das SR, Shabman RS, Tyler KL, Scheuermann RH. mBio. 2018 Oct 16;9(5):e01954-18. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01954-18. Full text

Also see
Children’s ‘polio-like’ illness may return in August. But a new treatment will cost millions to test The Philadelphia Inquirer
Scientists race to find treatment for ‘polio-like’ illness The Philadelphia Inquirer
A polio-like illness is on the rise again. But why? The Philadelphia Inquirer

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