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MRIGlobal Immunologist Collaborates with UCLA in Published Study Showing Ebola Survivors May Have Lifetime Immunity

Global Health Surveillance

Kansas City, Mo. – Research from a UCLA Fielding School of Public Health study with collaboration from MRIGlobal concludes that survivors of the first known Ebola outbreak may be key to the development of vaccines and therapeutic drugs to treat future outbreaks.

The study published in December 14, 2017, issue of The Journal of Infectious Disease – https://academic.oup.com/jid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/infdis/jix584/4716835

Ebola Immunity Findings

MRIGlobal Immunologist Gene Olinger, Jr., Ph.D., contributed to the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s published research giving hope to more than 20,000 survivors in West Africa, worried about future infections.

“Our research concludes that there is hope for life after Ebola,” said Dr. Olinger, MRIGlobal Principal Science Advisor. “After 40 years, the first infected survivors from the first known Ebola outbreak in 1976, are alive and still have strong immunity.”

Survivors of the first known Ebola outbreak, which occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976, may be key to the development of vaccines and therapeutic drugs to treat future outbreaks, according to the UCLA-led study.

The Ebola virus is often associated with high mortality rates in humans, ranging from 25 percent to 90 percent. Outbreaks have occurred with increased frequency since the first reported event in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976 in which 318 cases were recorded, with a fatality rate of 88 percent. (Of the 318 cases, 280 died.)

All survivors had antibodies that reacted, some very strongly, to three different Ebola proteins, the team reports. Four people had antibodies that went beyond simply binding to the proteins but could “neutralize” the virus—rendering it noninfectious—in lab experiments. “That was shocking,” says Dr. Olinger, who ran some of the tests. “I’d thought we’d have responses but I didn’t think we’d see neutralizing antibodies or the other strong responses.”

The research was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Faucett Catalyst Fund, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a DFG fellowship, the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health, and the University of California Global Health Institute.

About Gene Olinger, Jr., Ph.D.

As MRIGlobal’s Principal Science Advisor, Dr. Olinger focuses on human and agricultural antimicrobial resistance. He has overseen and conducted numerous projects focused on the development of treatment measures against highly lethal viral hemorrhagic fever viruses (VHFV). Dr. Olinger was an integral member of murine and humanized monoclonal antibody and emerging plant based production methods against Ebola Zaire virus under both DOD and NIH funding. This work was instrumental in the development of the ZMapp immunotherapeutic for Ebola. Continuing the effort to develop therapeutics against VHFV, Dr. Olinger’s team began to screen small molecules to identify VHFV antivirals in 2007. These drug discovery efforts led to an established effort to find therapeutic molecules for nine viral emerging and biodefence diseases.

Dr. Olinger has extensive field experience during outbreaks and has served as a subject matter expert for multiple Federal panels related to emerging viral pathogens. He has served on domestic and international government and NGOs as a SME for these topics and as a reviewer for infectious diseases and safety training research.