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Ebola virus may have a weak spot

SCIENCE FILE | Science in Brief

July 12, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ebola, the mysterious virus responsible for periodic deadly outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever in Africa, may have an Achilles' heel, scientists at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla reported Thursday.

Writing in the journal Nature, researchers revealed the shape of a protein that the virus uses to enter healthy cells, providing a possible target for drugs. Scientists also discovered some parts of the virus are similar in structure to parts of the HIV and Epstein-Barr virus, suggesting Ebola may help scientists understand why some diseases manage to avoid the body's defenses.

More than 1,850 human cases, including 1,200 deaths, have been recorded since Ebola was first identified more than three decades ago in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire. The virus causes high fever, diarrhea and vomiting and often leads to severe internal bleeding.

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