Mount Sinai scientists gain insight into Marburg infection

Scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai recently discovered how the Marburg virus quickly infects its host on a molecular level, potentially opening the door for the development of an effective treatment.

The scientists discovered that the interaction between Marburg virus and the human Keap1 protein results in the longevity and increased growth of the virus. Keap1 is responsible for protecting cells through regulating antioxidant response, but it actually has the reverse effect with Marburg virus and instead promotes its growth.

"Marburg virus has been essentially untreatable," Professor of Microbiology at Icahn and Senior Author of the study Christopher F. Basler said. "Our study shows that Marburg virus VP24 interacts with the host protein Keap1."

Approximately 90 percent of patients infected with Marburg virus do not survive. Cases of infection have been reported in Africa, with imported cases effecting Europe and the United States. The disease remains a top priority to national biodefense.

"If we can develop inhibitors, the virus will die and replicate more slowly - that's the hypothesis that we have now," Basler said.

The researchers conducted the study with the hope of gaining a comprehensive understanding of the virus's molecular composition to eventually create a treatment for the often fatal disease. Basler said the next step of the study is to continue research of the virus and eventually develop an effective treatment against infection.

The study was supported through grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense's Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

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