A new study has found, at a molecular level, what makes the Ebola virus so deadly.
The virus uses a combination of genes to prevent the cells they infect from triggering the immune system, a team of biologists at the University of Texas Medical Branch and the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found. People who die from Ebola generally don't seem to have had an immune response to the virus at the time of their deaths.
There are Ebola outbreaks every couple of years—sometimes more than once a year—in central and west Africa. Up to 90 percent of those who get sick from the Ebola virus die, according to the World Health Organization. Those who get sick may get fluids through an IV or other support, but there's no treatment or vaccine.
The U.S. team found how the Zaire variant of the Ebola virus prevents cells called dendric cells from making proteins that call other immune cells over to destroy them when they're infected. The researchers genetically engineered Ebola Zaire viruses so that they had mutations in four places in their genetic material that the researchers thought were important to the virus' ability to stop dendric cells from making proteins. The researchers made four different engineered Ebola Zaire viruses, each with mistakes in just one place in its genetic material.
The biologists found that each of those four mutated viruses couldn't mess up dendric cells, suggesting the virus needs some combination of those four genes to do its deadly work.
The researchers published their work last week in the Journal of Virology.
What makes Ebola so deadly? The fact that it doesn't even have to worry about going to work unless their hosts fail to kill you with their machetes and machine guns.
Do you believe you comments are often trollish?
I am curious.
@ 12; Absolutely, but I usually have some idiot point or other. Like the assumptions about the spread of deadly diseases in areas where people run around hacking each other up. If they won't stop, how do you ever get a population that can actually get a handle on the spread? They need the healthy ones to fight the bug, but the healthy ones are either killing others or are being killed; therefore it's the weak left to try to fight the bug.
As for trolling, who do you think you are; following me around at a magazine site that I've been a subscriber to for years, and attacking me when I decide to comment in the forum I pay for?
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point-of-view, Ebola's very potency limits the size of the epidemics quite efficiently as it burns itself out before it has time to spread far and wide.
By all counts, it's a horrible disease, but if you put things into perspective, the outbreaks have been, at least so far, quite small and have involved a few hundred victims at most.
On a global scale, I'm much more concerned about coronaviruses such as SARS or bird- and swine-flu.
Ebola infects some village in the African bush and kills all. It would be a problem if somebody from that village would get on a plane to another country, which is very unlikely to occur. So what's the problem? I'd be much more concerned about influenza virus H7N9 which might be evolving into a real global threat.
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