UTMB researchers find how Ebola disables the immune system


Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas have studied Ebola to try and answer how and through what means the virus attacks and overcomes the human protective immune system. A professor of the University and the lead author of the study published in PLOS Pathogens, Virologist Alex Bukreyev and his fellow researchers along with researcher Richard Koup from the Vaccine Research Center from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have made considerable progress in answering part of the how Ebola works.

Though it was only in the last couple of years that the public was reminded of the lethality and the alarming lack of understanding of the Ebola virus due to the relatively recent outbreaks, the virus itself has been under study for quite some time. For almost two decades the focus of research has been centered on the virus’ ability to interrupt the infected host’s body’s identifying mechanism (interferon proteins) to signal the presence of foreign pathogens and activating specialized cells meant to kill off the foreign objects. Interferons as their name indicates interfere with a virus’ ability to self-replicate by high jacking natural cells, but how the Ebola virus circumvented these first lines of defense was not a very certain thing.

Previous research did point to the possibility that “IIDs or interferon inhibiting domains” on two protein areas within the virus are key to disabling our natural resistance. To test this out further, this new research took genetically engineered strains of Ebola with IIDs disabled (one or both) to see how they would cope with immune cells removed from their human blood (T Lymphocyte and B lymphocyte cells) along with killing cells. The results pointed to more than just a disabling ability to signaling protons through IIDs, rather the IIDs also directly fight off immune cells, killer cells, and the B lymphocytes that “secrete” antibodies. Meaning cells already infected are unable to call out for help from the natural body defenses. These conclusions show that the Ebola virus has an all-encompassing effect on an infected human body that prevents it from being fought off even in the beginning stages.

Last Modified: 2017/02/20