Cell-targeting antibodies in immunity to Ebola

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As the 2014–15 Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa evolved from emergency to lesson, developers of both vaccines and therapeutic antibodies were left with the puzzlement of what kinds of anti-Ebola antibodies are predictably desirable in treating the afflicted, and what antibodies might account for the specific and lasting protection elicited by the more effective vaccines. The facile answer in virology is that neutralizing antibody (NAb) is desired and required. However, with Ebola and other filoviruses (as with many prior viral examples), there are multiple discordances in which neutralizing antibodies fail to protect animals, and others in which antibody-mediated protection is observed in the absence of measured virus neutralization. Explanation presumably resides in the protective role of antibodies that bind and functionally ‘target’ virus-infected cells, here called ‘cell-targeting antibody’, or CTAb. To be clear, many NAbs are also CTAbs, and in the case of Ebola the great majority of NAbs are likely CTAbs. Isotype, glycosylation, and other features of CTAbs are likely crucial in their capacity to mediate protection. Overall, results and analysis invite an increasingly complex view of antibody-mediated immunity to enveloped viruses.

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