Raising hope for an effective drug to treat people with Ebola virus, researchers have found that an enzyme could help prevent the deadly virus from spreading.
The enzyme takes away the virus' ability to copy itself and thus produce more virus particles and more infection, said the study published in the journal Molecular Cell.
'When the Ebola virus enters the human cell, its only purpose is to copy itself, fast. First it must copy all its proteins, then its genetic material," said Jakob Nilsson, Professor at University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
"But by inhibiting a specific enzyme we rob the Ebola virus of its ability to copy itself. And that may potentially prevent an Ebola infection from spreading," Nilsson said.
There is currently no available treatment for Ebola virus infection.
However, the researchers behind the new study found what is called a new host factor for Ebola virus.
It can be described as a small part of the host's -- for example the human body's -- own cells, which the Ebola virus uses to copy itself and produce more infection.
The virus uses the host factor enzyme PP2A-B56 to start producing proteins.
So when PP2A-B56 is switched off, the virus' ability to copy itself and produce more infection is stopped.
"When we inhibit the PP2A-B56 enzyme, we remove the first link in a long process, which ends with Ebola spreading. And we can tell that it works," Nilsson said.
"The Ebola infection in cell cultures where we have inhibited the PP2A-B56 enzyme is 10 times smaller after 24 hours compared to infections where we have not inhibited this enzyme," Nilsson added.
But because the researchers have so far focused on cell cultures, there is still work to be done before their results can be used to treat people infected with Ebola.
Initially, the researchers hope to be able to test it on animals and, in the long term, develop a drug that inhibits the relevant enzyme.