A New Lead on Treatment for Ebola

Original article from: BU Research posted on September 30, 2016. by Elizabeth Dougherty

In the book The Hot Zone, author Richard Preston called viruses like Ebola “molecular sharks”—mindless attackers made of almost nothing. Ebola virus, which causes often-fatal hemorrhagic fevers, carries just seven genes, none of which can do much without first stealing the smarts inside a host cell.

Virologists in the lab of John Connor have recently discovered one previously unknown way that Ebola hijacks a cell’s machinery and uses it to replicate and spread. When the virus invades, it takes over a pathway that normally helps the host cell turn its own genes into proteins. The virus uses this pathway—in particular, an activated form of a protein called eIF5A—to turn its own viral genes into proteins. When those viral proteins accumulate, the virus is able to unleash the rest of its deadly viral proteins.

By figuring out how the virus hijacks a host cell, Connor and his team have found a new lead for the treatment of Ebola infections, though more research is required to pinpoint a treatment strategy. “My lab tries to shine light on underlying mechanisms,” says Connor, associate professor of microbiology at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL). “Once you understand the different parts of a cell the virus is using, you can come up with ways to stop it.”

The findings were published in the American Society for Microbiology’s mBio journal in July 2016. Funders of the research include the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Health and Human Services.


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