Wednesday, December 9, 2009

US Scientists ID key Ebola virus structure

Scripps Research Institute scientists say they've identified the structure of a key Ebola virus protein -- a major step that might help lead to a treatment.

The Ebola virus, although rare, is one of the deadliest viruses on Earth, killing 50 percent to 90 percent of those infected, scientists said.

There is currently no cure for Ebola hemorrhagic fever, no vaccine and no drug therapy. But the researchers said their finding of how a key component of the Ebola virus, called VP35, blocks the human immune system, allowing the virus uncontrolled replication, is an important advancement in understanding how the deadly virus works.

"After infection, the virus and immune system are in a race," said Associate Professor Erica Ollmann Saphire, who led the three-year study. "If the virus can hide its molecular signatures, it can suppress immune responses and replicate unchecked. This new understanding of the mechanism that Ebola virus uses to evade the immune system opens the door for developing drug therapies."

A signature of Ebola virus infection is its double-stranded RNA, which, when detected by immune system proteins, triggers a full immune response. The new research describes how the VP35 protein of the Ebola virus masks the double-stranded RNA to prevent the immune response.

The study is detailed in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read More.....

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