Scientists find potential new drug target to prevent Ebola

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New Delhi: Scientists have found a new way in which Ebola reproduces in the human body, identifying a potential target for drugs to prevent the viral disease.

The study also sheds light on how the deadly virus that affects people mostly in sub-Saharan Africa interacts with a human protein called ubiquitin.

“We used a combination of experimental and computational (using computers) methods to investigate the interaction between the Ebola virus VP35 protein and ubiquitin chains,” said study co-author Rafael Najmanovich, a professor at the University of Montreal in Canada.

“Advanced computational modeling by our team predicted the binding interface between a viral protein, VP35, and the ubiquitin chains in human cells, and identified potential chemical compounds that could disrupt this interaction,” he said.

Ebola is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever caused by several species of viruses from the genus Ebolavirus. Symptoms of Ebola start out flu-like but can progress to severe vomiting, bleeding and neurological (brain and nerve) issues.

The finding, published in the journal PLOS Biology, not only deepens our understanding of how the virus works, but also offers a promising avenue for the creation of more effective therapies, the researchers said.

“In particular, it paves the way for the design of drugs capable of disrupting this interaction and slowing down viral replication,” Najmanovich said.

Notorious for its devastating outbreaks and high mortality rates, Ebola virus poses a significant threat to public health, the researchers said.

Understanding the intricate processes by which the virus replicates within the human body is essential for developing effective treatments, they said.

The latest study unravels some of the molecular intricacies of Ebola virus replication, shedding light on key proteins and pathways involved in the process.

The researchers were able to clarify structural and functional aspects of viral and human proteins interacting in a manner critical for viral replication.

One of the key findings of the study is the identification of one additional interaction for VP35, a multifunctional viral protein which plays a central role in viral replication.

The study revealed insights into the intricate interplay between Ebola virus and the host immune system.

By evading detection and subverting host defences, the virus is able to establish a foothold within the body, leading to unchecked replication and severe disease progression.

“This research underlines the importance of trying to understand the complex workings of viruses such as Ebola, and to develop innovative strategies to combat them,” Najmanovich added.

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