Looks like scientists have come closer to finding a universal cure for Ebola.
A team of biochemists at the University of Utah reported on Tuesday that they have created a molecule, called peptic mimic, which represents a functionally critical region of the Ebola virus, common to all strains.
The new research is highly promising as it is this particular region in the Ebola protein which plays a huge role in the entry of the virus into a human host cell and initiates infection.
As all experimental drugs currently available against Ebola are capable of fighting only any one of the five strains, this groundbreaking research is expected to help in the development of drugs which can target Ebola viruses -- irrespective of their strain nature, including new ones that appear in the future.
"The current growing epidemic demonstrates the need for effective broad-range Ebola virus therapies," stated lead author of the study Dr Tracy R Clinton in a news release.
"Importantly, viral sequence information from the epidemic reveals rapid changes in the viral genome, while our target sequence remains the same. Therefore, our target will enable the discovery of drugs with the potential to treat any future epidemic, even if new Ebola virus strains emerge."
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has been named after the Ebola River in Yambuku, a small village in Mongala District in Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) in Central Africa, where the deadly virus first appeared in 1976.
An online investigation links the 2014 Ebola outbreak to a two-year-old boy in Guinea who contracted the disease from an infected bat and died in December last year. Since then the deadly disease has claimed over 3,000 lives in different parts of West Africa. The main culprit behind the current outbreak is the Zaire strain of Ebola virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The other Ebola strains include Bundibugyo, Sudan, Reston and Taï Forest.
An infected person will start displaying symptoms of the disease including body ache, high fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, haemorrhaging and joint pain, within two to 21 days of being exposed to the blood, urine, faeces, semen of a person or animal infected with Ebola.
Researchers expected that their findings will help in the development of a universal drug for Ebola. "Although the current push of clinical trials will hopefully lead to an effective treatment for the Zaire species causing the present epidemic, the same treatments are unlikely to be effective against future outbreaks of a different or new Ebola species. Development of a broadly acting therapy is an important long-term goal that would allow cost-effective stockpiling of a universal Ebola treatment," researcher Dr Debra Eckert, said.
The study has been reported in Protein Science.