Ebola and Marburg are among the most deadly viruses, with mortality rates from these infections ranging from 25% to 90%. While no drugs currently are available on the market to prevent infection from these viruses — they belong to a category of viruses called filoviruses, which are known to cause hemorrhagic fever — researchers have identified a few small drug molecules that can block filoviruses from infecting cells by occupying a single site on a glycoprotein in the virus.

Marburg Virus Disease
Marburg virus virions/CDC

Now, researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago have identified a second site on the filovirus glycoprotein to which small drug molecules can bind and prevent infection. The researchers say that small drug molecules that block both glycoprotein sites may be more effective and reduce the risk of side effects.

These findings are reported in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

“We need to identify how these filoviruses get into cells as a means to help us identify or develop drugs that can prevent infection,” said Lijun Rong, UIC professor of microbiology and immunology at the College of Medicine and a corresponding author of the paper. “Even though at the moment Ebola and Marburg are not in the news that often, having drugs in our arsenal in case of a flare-up is invaluable. These viruses also mutate constantly, so having a better understanding of how they work will let us develop next-generation viral inhibitors.”

Read more at the University of Illinois Chicago