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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The viruses that cause AIDS and Ebola, two deadly, contagious and highly feared diseases, spread through the body using the same mechanism, U.S.-based researchers said on Friday. The researchers, led by Dr. Paul Bieniasz of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at New York's Rockefeller University, said they hoped their finding might lead to the discovery of new drugs to help treat HIV and Ebola infections. Their study, published in the December issue of the journal Nature Medicine, shows HIV and Ebola use a protein called Tsg101 to bud from the cells they infect. Both viruses hijack cells, inject their genetic material, and turn the cells into little virus factories. New copies of the virus "bud" from the cells in one of the steps of this process, before going in search of new cells to infect. As both HIV and Ebola bud, Tsg101 attaches to the virus and helps it to emerge from the cell, the researchers reported. They said it might be possible to design a drug that interferes with this process. That would presumably prevent the spread of the virus in an infected person. "It's remarkable to see two such different viruses share a common budding mechanism," Bieniasz said in a statement. "This may present a new target for drugs to treat HIV and Ebola infection, and our research team has begun working on drug discovery based on this research." To confirm the study findings, the researchers genetically engineered a hybrid of HIV and Ebola, and a hybrid of HIV and the Tsg101 protein. Both engineered viruses were able to infect new cells, they said. There is no cure for either HIV or Ebola infection. Ebola causes a hemorrhagic disease that kills 70 percent of its victims within days.
Single protein, key to Ebola virus infection, could aid in drug design
Date: August 24, 2011
Source: US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases
Summary: New research has identified a cellular protein that plays a critical role in Ebola virus infection. The findings suggest a possible strategy for combating one of the world's most deadly viruses.
Research published by two teams of Army scientists and collaborators has identified a cellular protein that plays a critical role in Ebola virus infection. The findings, published online in separate studies in the journal Nature, suggest a possible strategy for combating one of the world's most deadly viruses.
Ebola causes hemorrhagic fever with case fatality rates as high as 90 percent in humans. The virus is of concern both as a global public health threat and as a potential agent of biological terrorism. Currently there are no available vaccines or therapies to combat the disease. In addition, much is still unknown about the exact mechanism by which Ebola virus invades cells and causes infection.
In one Nature study, scientists from USAMRIID, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and Harvard Medical School searched for proteins that Ebola virus might use to enter cells. One such cellular protein, known as Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1), stood out: The team found that if cells don't make NPC1, they cannot be infected by Ebola virus.