Since I first made ​​its appearance in humans in 1976 in Sudan and the former Zaire, scientists have tried to identify the mechanism of action of the ebola virus. Always without success, however, at least so far: a study just published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, seems to be able to identify the way in which the dangerous virus acts by blocking the immune system.

The author of the study is Gaya Amarasinghe University of Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis (USA). Amarasinghe seems to have finally figured out how ebola can ensure that there is a defensive reaction by the body of the infected individuals. This is a very important discovery, because it is precisely the lack of initiation of an immune response that causes a high mortality rate, which for some strains of the virus can reach even 90 percent.

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To block the immune system would be a viral molecule, called VP24 . This molecule inhibits another, the Stat1 , whose task is to act as a “messenger,” and tell the body that it’s time to defend against a threat by activating a set of genes able to quickly start the immune reaction. This would explain why, as has long been known, the ebola virus also blocks the antiviral activity of interferon, which is mediated by Stat1 own, and could lead to development of new therapies.

Therapies that are much needed, since the outbreak of Ebola in progress – that matters now already four African countries and has so far caused over a thousand deaths of less than two thousand persons infected – is continuing and there are currently treatment for hemorrhagic fever that viruses cause. To the point that the World Health Organization was forced to have to authorize the use of a therapy that had never been tested on humans, but which seems to have given good results in monkeys.