Sunday 6 November 2016

Class of drugs effective against Marburg virus and Ebola

A new drug has shown promise against both Marburg virus and Ebola. This may not be as surprising as it first seems, given the genetic similarities between the two viruses.

Filoviruses cause two types of viral haemorrhagic fever: Marburg and Ebola. Both Marburg virus and Ebola are deadly and contagious, being rated as the highest biohazards (at level 4.) Given the similar types of viral structure, researchers are attempting to develop therapies against both diseases.

Marburg virus causes severe disease in humans and nonhuman primates. It has received less coverage in the news than Ebola (unsurprising given the 2013-2015 issues in West Africa); it nonetheless requires study, given its potential to become an epidemic.

Scientists based at the University at Chicago have found that the way the two viruses try to enter host cells to replicate themselves can be blocked using the same class of drug. Moreover, this drug type is already in use.

The blocking mechanism comes from an understanding of how the Ebola and Marburg viruses gain entry into host cells. This is through a cell surface receptor which acts as a gateway. The cell surface receptor is formed from a protein class termed GPCR. There are thousands of different GPCRs in humans. These proteins are located on the surface of cells and it mediates several types of biological processes. Today, many types of drugs as designed to act via such gateway proteins.

The research group screened over 1,000 compounds and discovered that 20 GPCR antagonists demonstrated the ability to prevent the Ebola and Marburg viruses from entering host cells.

This finding opens up a new avenue of research. It should be possible to develop GPCR antagonists that can be effective against both Ebola and Marburg viruses. The research is published in the Journal of Virology, in a paper headed “Inhibition of Ebola and Marburg viral entry by G protein-coupled receptor.”

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

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