August 24, 2009

Gene may be key in treating Ebola, anthrax

U.S. Army medical scientists say they've determined a single host gene may be key in treating both Ebola and anthrax infections.

The study, conducted at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, indicates a minor reduction in levels of a gene known as CD45 can provide protection against the microbes that cause Ebola hemorrhagic fever and the bacterium that causes anthrax.

Taken together, scientists said the study's results suggest a common host restriction factor and a promising approach to drug development for treating two completely different infections.

The researchers said mice expressing reduced levels of CD45 between 11 percent and 77 percent were protected against Ebola virus. In addition to an overall survival rate of 90 percent to 100 percent, the mice had reduced levels of virus load in the major organs, and had completely cleared the virus 10 days after challenge.

In contrast, mice that had naturally occurring levels of CD45 -- or none at all -- succumbed to infection within seven to eight days following challenge.

Scientists said mice that expressed reduced levels of CD45 retained greater control of gene expression and immune cell proliferation following Ebola virus infection. These factors contributed to enhanced viral clearance, increased protection against the virus and a reduction in cell death.

The study is reported in the early online edition of the journal Cell Host and Microbe.