Potential Ebola countermeasure discovered

A study by the University of Illinois Chicago has discovered a family of small molecules that bind to the outer protein coat of the potential bioweapon Ebola virus and prevent it from entering into human cells.

While previous studies have been done to show that some small molecules can affect how infected cells react to the Ebola virus, this new set of molecules may prevent a virus from entering and infecting a cell entirely.

Duncan Wardrop, an associate professor of chemistry at UIC, and UIC virologist Lijun Rong collaborated to create a screening process using a chimera of the Ebola virus with the same protein coat, testing 230 candidate compounds to inhibit the non-life threatening version of the virus. Two molecules inhibited cell entry and one was very specific for the Ebola virus.

"We found that our lead compound also inhibits Marburg," Wardrop said, "That was a nice surprise. There's growing evidence the two viruses have the same cell-entry mechanism, and our observations appear to point to this conclusion."

After further research by Waldrop and graduate student Maria Yermolina, they found that several derivatives of the successful molecule, which is a family of compounds called isoxazoles, had increased activity against Ebola infection.

"This knowledge may spur development of new anti-viral agents," Wardrop said.