Thanks to a grant from the International Elephant Foundation, biotechnology company Cellphire, Smithsonian Global Health Program, Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, Fort Worth Zoo, and Houston Zoo have made great strides in developing a novel treatment for a lethal virus afflicting baby Asian elephants around the globe. Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) is the leading cause of death among captive Asian elephants under 12 years of age. EEHV attacks blood vessels and frequently causes uncontrolled hemorrhage, causing the victim to die of blood loss.

The innovative treatment under development builds off of cutting-edge research in human platelet-products, a specialty of Cellphire. This ground-breaking treatment is shelf-stable and can stop bleeding from trauma and internal damage. The human product is targeted at situations as diverse as battlegrounds and Ebola outbreaks. Until now, there has not been a version for elephants. The biotech firm is aided by the extensive elephant health expertise from partner zoological veterinarians at diverse institutions. To date, blood from two Asian Elephants has been collected, stabilized, and prepared for separation into component parts. Separation was successful, and scientists isolated platelet-rich plasma, which was then freeze-dried using a proprietary process. The resulting lyophilized platelets are being subjected to a battery of quality control tests to evaluate shape, size, identity, activity, and purity.  So far, the platelet product reconstitutes appropriately and contains adequate size and number of particles. Samples have been tested for sterility, and the product meets or exceeds FDA regulations for an injectable blood product’s sterility. The product also passes tests for bacterial endotoxin. Partners are currently focused on optimizing protocols to appropriately utilize antibodies for confirmation of identity and purity. Assessing in vitro potency for activation and clot formation. These complicated laboratory procedures are designed to ensure that the final result is a treatment that is safe, effective, and reliable as a treatment for stopping the dangerous hemorrhage caused by EEHV.

Announcement from Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute