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Ebola . . . plays a nasty trick on the immune system, infiltrating cellular components normally used to sort and digest food and waste, known as endosomes and lysosomes. There, it’s able to hide from most antibodies that the body produces. Within this space it undergoes a change in shape that allows it to unload its genetic material and take over the cell.
Researchers have now identified two antibodies from the blood of a survivor in West Africa that foils Ebola’s hide-and-shift act. These antibodies inactivate all five strains of the virus, including the three that have caused disease outbreaks in humans. The antibodies work by preventing the virus from binding to a critical protein within endosomes known as NPC1. If the Ebola virus cannot bind to this receptor, then it cannot replicate and continue its spread.
These antibodies act like Trojan horses, tagging along with the virus into the endosome . . . Ebola’s shape-shifting process is akin to an “undressing,” where it removes proteins coating its exterior that allow it to evade the immune system. Once the virus changes shape, the antibodies bind to it, even more tightly than before its change.
“If the described antibody turns out to be protective in non-human primates this will certainly be a candidate for a prophylactic vaccine for humans which could be given…to health care personnel shortly before they are deployed to an Ebola virus outbreak,” . . . “This would be especially important if the exact Ebola virus species causing the outbreak is not known.”