International research team discovers key to Ebola infection

The Ebola virus
The Ebola virus | Courtesy of the CDC

Scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) have discovered an important mechanism involved with the spread of the Ebola virus.

The international team announced on Tuesday that they have discovered the molecular mechanism that the virus must be able to break in order to infect cells; they theorize that drugs preventing this breach would prevent infection from occurring. 

A study involving mice showed that the Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1) protein was necessary for the infection process to continue. Mice that did not have this protein were resistant to the virus. 

"Our study reveals NPC1 to be an Achilles' heel for Ebola virus infection," Kartik Chandran, one of the leading researchers and associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Einstein, said. 

Chandran stated that this research would best be used to eventually develop an anti-viral treatment regimen for viruses similar to Ebola that are thought to use the NPC1 protein as a pathway to infection. 

Andrew Herbert, a senior research scientist at USAMRIID in the Viral Immunology Branch states that, while this pathway is an important cholesterol transport mechanism, patients would likely be able to tolerate the temporary blockages needed to prevent infection of the Ebola virus.

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U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID)

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