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Researchers discover key mechanism by which lethal viruses Ebola and Marburg cause disease

Researchers in the Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Caribbean Primate Research Center have discovered a key mechanism by which the Filoviruses, Ebola and Marburg, cause disease. The identification of an amino acid sequence in Filoviruses that results in the rapid depression of immunological response is described in the December 2006 issue of The FASEB Journal. Using this information, researchers can begin to develop new drugs to stop these devastating diseases.

Filoviruses, named for their threadlike appearance in electron microscopy (filo= thread in Latin), are associated with outbreaks of fatal hemorrhagic fever in sub-Saharan Africa. Viral hemorrhagic fevers are of specific concern because they are associated with high morbidity and mortality (up to 80% mortality rates) and the potential for rapid dissemination through human-to-human transmission. The term "viral hemorrhagic fever" characterizes a severe multisystem syndrome associated with fever, shock, and bleeding caused by infection with one of a number of viruses, including the Filoviruses Ebola and Marburg.

Both humans and apes are susceptible to viral hemorrhagic fevers, and it is speculated that filovirus infections account at least in part for the recent decline in the gorilla and chimpanzee population in central Africa. There is no cure or approved vaccine for either Marburg or Ebola virus. Immunosuppression occurs early after infection and allows the viruses to reproduce rapidly and cause disease.

"Currently, there is no way to treat most viral hemorrhagic fever outbreaks, and increased international travel, trafficking in wildlife, political instability, and terrorism have made emerging infectious diseases a global concern," stated W. Ian Lipkin, MD, director of the Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory at the Mailman School's Department of Epidemiology an
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Source:Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health


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