Key Structure of Virus Described

The new research was made possible by an antibody isolated. The antibody - shown bound to the Ebola virus spike protein in the current research - was derived from bone marrow of one of the few survivors of the 1995 Ebola outbreak in Kikwit, a city in the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The structure provides important information for understanding how the deadly virus works, and may be useful in the development of potential Ebola virus vaccines, or treatments for those infected. The structure of the antibody together with the viral glycoprotein helps reveal the mechanisms by which the molecules assemble on the viral surface and helps explain how the pathogen evades and exploits the human immune system. Thus, it might provide a guide to those who design drugs and vaccines to block this protein.

"Much about Ebola virus is still a mystery," says Erica Ollmann Saphire, the scientist who led the five-year research. "However, this structure now reveals how this critical piece of the virus is assembled and, importantly, identifies vulnerable sites that we can exploit."

The Ebola virus is spread when people come into contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is already infected causing hemorrhagic fever. According to the scientists, most die from a combination of dehydration, massive bleeding, and shock. The best treatment so far, they state, consists of administering fluids and taking protective measures to ensure containment, like isolating the patient and washing sheets with bleach.; Source: Scripps Research Institute