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Chinese scientists make Ebola breakthrough

Updated: Jan 15,2016 2:56 PM     Xinhua

BEIJING — Scientists have discovered how the Ebola virus enters cells and infects humans, marking a major breakthrough in the battle against the virus after the deadly outbreak in West Africa in March 2014.

The research, published by the scientific journal “Cell”, provides a theoretical basis for the prevention and control of Ebola, offering a new direction for drug development.

Ebola is like influenza and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which uses the host cells to initiate the life cycle of the virus, said Gao Fu, researcher with the Institute of Microbiology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who led the research team.

NPC1, an endosomal protein, has been identified as a necessary entry receptor for Ebola entering cells, but the trigger of the fusion process remained a mystery for scientists.

“Previous research has revealed four manners of viruses entering cells. But we’ve found the fusion between Ebola and host cells does not follow the known ways. It’s a fifth type,” said Gao.

Based on the new discoveries, researchers will be able to develop small-molecule or polypeptide inhibitors targeting the fusion trigger, preventing Ebola entry at the very beginning, said Gao.