Israeli Scientists Come Up With Drug to Combat West Nile Fever

Two Israeli scientists have come up with a revolutionary new drug which they believe will slow down the spread of West Nile fever among those already infected by the virus. The drug - Omr-IgG-am - was developed jointly by Professor Bracha Rager, former Health Ministry chief scientist and senior staff member at the Health Science Faculty's Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva, and David Ben-Natan, of the Nes Tziona Biological Institute.

Omr-IgG-am, which is manufactured by Omrix, a biopharmaceuticals company that has R&D facilities at the Weizmann Science Park in Nes Tziona, is based on immunoglobulin, a protein group found in the blood's liquid component.

"This group contains all the antibodies that a human develops in his lifetime once he is exposed to bacteria, viruses and the like," Rager said.

The researchers succeeded in isolating the "defensive antibodies" produced from a group of proteins taken from Israeli blood donors who had come in contact with the virus. The antibodies were injected into rats who had been infected with the West Nile virus. The fact that the rats survived the disease proved the effectiveness of the antibodies as a pharmaceutical treatment even among patients who have already been infected by the virus. The results of the study proved the original findings of doctors at Netanya's Laniado Hospital, who succeeded in improving the condition of a female West Nile patient using the antibody treatment.

Since developing the drug, Omrix has a signed cooperation agreement with the National Institutes of Health in the United States to carry out clinical tests of the Israeli product. The clinical experiments, authorized by the U.S. , will focus on a number of medical centers in an attempt to determine the effectiveness of the new drug.

"The research is pinned on our success in proving the effectiveness of the antibody treatment against the disease. Not every disease can be treated in this way," Rager said. "In the future, we will know how to produce immunoglobulins that will include the precise amounts of defensive antibodies and it will be possible to build a standard for the treatment of the disease. In addition, we will attempt to develop a vaccine for people who have not yet been infected by the disease."