Ebola Virus Takes a Molecular Hit

Small molecules stick to ebola virus's "coat", inhibit effectiveness

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A team of researchers at the University of Chicago have uncovered a batch of molecules that bind to the outer shell of the ebola virus, a deadly and incurable disease.

The ebola virus is a tropical virus that causes hemorrhagic fever in humans. Viral hemorrhagic fevers involve severe fever symptoms combined with bleeding disorders and are frequently fatal. There is currently no cure for the ebola virus, but scientists from the University of Chicago have discovered a way to potentially prevent its entry into human cells.

The team screened hundreds of compounds and found a small batch of molecules that bind to the ebola virus's outer protein coat, which could obstruct the ebola virus's ability to invade human cells. These are the first molecules discovered that bind to the virus before entering the human cells, not after. Previous studies only demonstrated molecules that bound to the ebola virus while already in the cell.

The team created a virus that mimics ebola but is not dangerous for scientists to work with. After testing several compounds, they found one specific molecule that attacked the ebola virus and also showed potential for inhibiting another virus: Marburg, which is also a hemorrhagic fever virus in the same family as ebola.

The researchers then created synthesized variations of the same molecule and found that all of the synthesized molecules had ebola inhibiting properties. Further research is being done as to how exactly these molecules bind to the virus's coat.

Once a molecular treatment has been assembled, animal testing can commence. In the meantime, simply understanding how these viruses work on the molecular level is crucial. Duncan Wardrop, an author of the study, says that discovering this ebola-inhibiting molecule is "invaluable."

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 20, 2011
Last Updated:
January 20, 2011