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Ebola virus-like particles prevent lethal Ebola virus infection

Scientists have successfully immunized mice against Ebola virus using hollow virus-like particles, or VLPs, which are non-infectious but capable of provoking a robust immune response. These Ebola VLPs conferred complete protection to mice exposed to lethal doses of the virus.

The work could serve as a basis for development of vaccines and other countermeasures to Ebola, which causes hemorrhagic fever with case fatality rates as high as 80 percent in humans. The virus, which is infectious by aerosol, is of concern both as a global health threat and a potential agent of biological warfare or terrorism. Currently there are no available vaccines or therapies.

In a study published in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sina Bavari and colleagues at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) describe creating VLPs from two Ebola virus proteins, glycoprotein (GP) and matrix protein (VP40). These VLPs resemble a shell of infectious viral particles but lack the genetic material necessary for reproduction.

When the VLPs were injected into mice, they activated both arms of the immune response. Specifically, they induced cell-mediated immunity via T cells and humoral immunity via B cells. Both are necessary for complete protection against the Ebola virus.

Having shown that the VLPs evoked a robust immune response, the team next examined whether this response could protect mice from lethal challenge with Ebola virus. Mice were vaccinated with VLPs three times at three-week intervals and challenged with the virus six weeks after the last vaccination. The result was 100 percent protection with no signs of illness in the immunized mice.

"This is astonishing work," said Colonel Erik A. Henchal, commander of USAMRIID. "The ability to produce self-assembling particles that resemble whole virus will give us a new tool to evaluate the combination of var
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Contact: Caree Vander Linden
Caree.Vander-Linden@amedd.army.mil
301-619-2285
US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases
9-Dec-2003


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