May 27, 2015
Washington — US researchers believe they may have pinpointed the Achilles heel of the Ebola virus, which could hold the key to developing an effective preventative vaccine, a study reported Tuesday.
Research published in the latest issue of mBio, the online journal of the American Society for Microbiology, said scientists believed a protein called Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1) was critical for Ebola to infect a host.
“Our study reveals NPC1 to be an Achilles heel for Ebola virus infection,” said co-study leader Kartik Chandran, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University.
There are currently no federally approved treatments for Ebola in the United States, and all of the therapies in development elsewhere are designed to attack the virus.
Targeting NPC1 is the first host-based therapeutic approach to combat the disease, which claimed thousands of lives during a devastating outbreak in West Africa last year, the worst in history.
Previous in vitro studies had shown that Ebola enters host cells by binding directly to NPC1 and that blocking the virus’s ability to latch on to the protein prevented infection.