Sentry Proteins key to Defense against Green Monkey Disease
Posted Sep 19 2012 9:19am
The Marburg and Ebola virusesMicrobes that are only able to multiply within living cells. are known to be some of the deadliest bugs on the planet. Due to cunning use of deception and camouflage the virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. evades natural defences for a sufficient period to re-group, grow and then overwhelm the body with a massive attack.
It is becoming increasingly evident to scientists that the part of the virus the body's immune systemThe organs specialised to fight infection. needs to see is the core geneticRelating to the genes, the basic units of genetic material. material. However, the Marburg virus wraps a length of proteinCompounds that form the structure of muscles and other tissues in the body, as well as comprising enzymes and hormones. over this part of itself rendering it invisible or non-reactive to the immune system.
Marburg causes an extreme form of haemorrhagic feverThe raising of the body temperature above norma, which may be accompanied by symptoms such as shivering, headache and sweating. which affects both humans and non-human primates. Infections normally occur in sporadic outbreaks throughout Africa, but with devastating effects. For example, an outbreak in Angola in 2005-06, which started in a paediatric ward, killed 88% of the children and people infected.
The lab in Marburg, Germany that discovered the virus (and where the lab staff became infected) was using African green monkeys and their tissueA group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function. to develop a polio vaccine. Marburg belongs to a dangerous family of viruses known as filoviuses, which includes the Ebola virus.
The virus has subsequently been imported into the United States (Colorado) and the Netherlands by tourists returning from Africa. The virus is spread when people come into contact with bodily fluids from an infected person or animal, and there is no cure. Most people die within two weeks, from dehydrationWater deficiency in the body., massive bleeding and shock. However, small proportions of people have naturally strong and immediate immune responses and do survive.
The part of the viral nucleic acid that the immune system relies on being able to recognize in order to raise a strong immune response is the double stranded RNA (dsRNA) at the middle of viruses. This is the viruses unique 'signature' and is normally detected by "hostAn animal or plant that supports a parasite. sentry proteins".
The good news is that by understanding the way in which these deadly viruses operate, there is now a much better route for developing an anti-viral therapeutic approach.