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The Ebola virus wrecked havoc in West Africa a year ago which led a to huge loss of human life killing more than 8000 people. The virus opened avenues for scientists across the world to discover vaccines and drugs to prevent and treat the deadly disease. While vaccines were developed post the epidemic, scientists have now identified a week point of the Ebola virus. (Read: Ebola virus signs and symptoms you need to watch out for!)
The molecular 'lock' that the deadly Ebola virus must pick to gain entry to cells has been identified by a team of scientists from various countries including scientists from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).
If researchers develop drugs that block the entry of the virus, a treatment for the disease might be just round the corner.
How does the Ebola virus enter the cells?
The virus attaches itself to the a protein called Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1)that is present in the membrane of host cells and then infects the cells. According to Associate Professor and co-study leader Kartik Chandran, Ph.D., the study reveals that the protein NPC1 is an Achilles' heel for Ebola virus infection. The study was carried out in mice and the mice lacking both copies of the NPC1 gene were resistant to the virus. (Read: Ebola virus is mutating rapidly say scientists)
How was the study conducted?
The study aimed to confirm whether NPC1 gene is responsible for the infection of Ebola virus. Two types of mice -'wild type' that have two intact copies of the protein and 'knock out mice' that lacked both the copies of the protein were infected with the virus. It was found that the wild type succumbed to the infection whereas, the knock out mice were completely free of infection and were protected against the virus. (Read: Ebola facts frequently asked questions (FAQ)
What does the study conclude?
Senior research scientist Dr. Andrew S. Herbert, PhD, at USAMRIID, and co-first author of the study, explained that a treatment like this would block the cholesterol transport pathway and patients would be able to tolerate the treatment as it would be only for a short time.
The study is published in online journal mBio.
Image source: Getty Images
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