Ebola vaccine closer after scientists discover key protein

Presently, there are no authorised treatments to cure the disease

By Vani Manocha
Published: Friday 29 May 2015

Photo credit: US’ Centers for Disease Control

Ebola vaccine could soon be a reality. According to a report published in journal mBIo, Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1) protein is an essential entry receptor for filoviruses like Ebola.

The research that was published by American Society for Microbiology is a breakthrough as scientists have been searching for an essential filovirus receptor for decades now.

To carry out the research, the virus was exposed to three kinds of mice–normal mice, mice genetically engineered to be completely deficient in NPC1, and mice engineered to have both a normal and a mutant NPC1 level. While normal mice died from Ebola infection after nine days, mice lacking both copies of the NPC1 gene and devoid of NPC1 protein were completely free of the virus.

Earlier researches like the one published by European Molecular Biology Organization  have shown that Ebola enters host cells by binding directly to the protein NPC1. Therefore, blocking its ability to cling on to the protein can prevent the body from being infected.

“Our work shows that Ebola is completely dependent on the NPC1 protein to infect animals, and almost certainly humans as well,” said co-author of the study Kartik Chandran, also an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, US.

Talking to Down To Earth about the benefits of the study on research and vaccine, Chandran added, “The stage is now set for developing anti-Ebola drugs that work by temporarily blocking NPC1 in people. We believe that such drugs will protect against all strains of Ebola virus, and even against the more distantly-related Marburg virus, because all of these viruses require NPC1 as a receptor.”

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