The ability of the Ebola virus to copy itself and spread through hosts can be “switched off” by manipulating a host factor enzyme, according to a recent study by European researchers.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen and Phillips Universität Marburg in Germany discovered that the Ebola virus uses host factor enzyme PP2A-B56 to begin producing proteins, and switching the enzyme off can prevent the virus’ ability to replicate and spread in hosts.
‘When the Ebola virus enters the human cell, its only purpose is to copy itself, fast,” Jakob Nilsson, a professor at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, said. “First, it must copy all its proteins, then its genetic material. But by inhibiting a specific enzyme we rob the Ebola virus of its ability to copy itself. And that may potentially prevent an Ebola infection from spreading.”
Research has focused exclusively on cell cultures thus far, and more research will be needed before the breakthrough can be used to treat people infected with Ebola. Plans call for the technique to be tested on animals with the long-term goal of developing a drug to inhibit the host enzyme.
‘When we inhibit the PP2A-B56 enzyme, we remove the first link in a long process, which ends with Ebola spreading,” Nilsson said. “And we can tell that it works. The Ebola infection in cell cultures where we have inhibited the PP2A-B56 enzyme is 10 times smaller after 24 hours compared to infections where we have not inhibited this enzyme.”