BEIJING — A research group at the No.4 Military Medical University of China has achieved a breakthrough in the treatment of encephalitis B with a monoclonal antibody.

The product, now in clinical trials in China, is the first monoclonal antibody to be used for the treatment of diseases in humans in China. It was recently regarded as one of the most promising research and development achievements of the Chinese army in 1997.

Ma Wenyu, professor of the department of microbiology at the No.4 Military Medical University, in Xian, the capital city of Shaanxi Province in Middle China, headed the group and began the research in 1988.

According to Ma, epidemic encephalitis B is a kind of acute viral communicable disease with a major syndrome of central nervous system damage. "There have been no effective therapies to this high-mortality disease. Our achievement is, however, most likely to provide a new method to cure encephalitis B." Ma said.

The monoclonal antibody has been trialed in 345 cases over a span of nine years. The studies showed the product can relieve heat and other symptoms of encephalitis B, and improve consciousness. The death rate of encephalitis B also was reduced dramatically after the treatment.

Chinese researchers began their studies on monoclonal antibodies in the 1970s. According to statistics of the Chinese Ministry of Health (MOH), the government organization responsible for new drug approval, China has successfully developed more than 300 varieties of monoclonal antibodies, including blood cell antigen monoclonal antibodies, histocompatibility antigen monoclonal antibodies, tumor-related antigen monoclonal antibodies and pathogenic microorganism monoclonal antibodies. These antibodies have been widely applied for in vitro diagnosis.

In the late 1990s, research on monoclonal antibodies was expanded to in vivo diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

To date, seven monoclonal antibody products have been approved by the MOH for clinical trials in China. The products include:

* A treatment, referred to as WuT3, developed by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products for prevention of organ transplant rejection.

* A bladder cancer cell monoclonal antibody, BDI-1, developed by the Department of Immunology and the Research Institute of Urinary System of the Beijing Medical University.

* A liver cancer-related monoclonal antibody, called HAb18 radioimmuno-imaging agent, developed by the No.4 Military Medical University for early-stage detection and qualitative and differential diagnosis.

* A small cell lung cancer monoclonal antibody developed by the Shanghai Institute of Oncology for diagnosis.

* A T cell monoclonal antibody developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products.

Products that have finished pre-clinical research and have been submitted to MOH for approval to begin clinical trials are:

* A carcino-embryonic antigen monoclonal antibody developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products for diagnosis.

* A liver cancer cell monoclonal antibody developed by No.4 Military Medical University for treatment.

* A colon cancer monoclonal antibody developed by the Biotechnology Institute for diagnosis.

* A lung cancer monoclonal antibody, called MCB 131I-3H11, developed by the Beijing Institute of Oncology for diagnosis.

* A liver cancer monoclonal antibody developed by Shanghai Cell Institute for treatment.

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