Ebola bug’s secret mechanism revealed

Houston, May 3 (IANS) Scientists have shed light on the deadly Ebola virus’s mechanism of disrupting the immune system of patients, says a study.

Researchers have discovered the mechanism behind one of the Ebola virus’ most dangerous attributes: Its ability to disarm the adaptive immune system.

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston scientists determined that Ebola short-circuits the immune system using proteins that work together to shut down cellular signalling related to interferon (proteins released by host cells in response to the presence of pathogens like virus, bacteria, tumour cells or parasites).

Disruption of this activity, researchers found, allows Ebola to prevent the full development of dendritic cells that would otherwise trigger an immune response to the virus, reports Science Daily.

“Dendritic cells typically undergo a process called “maturation” when they’re infected by a virus — they change shape and present antigens on their surface that tell T-cells to attack that particular virus, thus generating an adaptive immune response,” said UTMB professor Alexander Bukreyev, senior author of a paper on the discovery, now online in the Journal of Virology.

“But Ebola prevents dendritic-cell maturation and produces a severe infection without an effective adaptive immune response. We found that its ability to do this depends on several specific regions of two different proteins.”

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