In many countries, covid-19 remains a public health challenge and efforts are still needed to contain the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. However, researchers are already studying possible targets of an upcoming pandemic, such as a type of virus similar to Ebola, Bombali. Early studies suggest it could potentially be transmitted from bats to humans.
Published in a scientific journal Cell PressO preprint – a study that has not yet been peer-reviewed – was developed by researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most likely, the Bombali virus could represent a risky zoonotic disease in humans, if it were to emerge from its natural host.
In this scenario, the study by CDC scientists is an initiative that seeks to track potential unknown risks to global health and advance the search for treatments. With these preparations, the world can mitigate the effects of a possible next pandemic. After all, viruses that leap from wild animals (or not) are the most likely to cause global harm to the human species..
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Understanding the risks of Ebolavirus
The Bombali virus belongs to the Ebolavirus genus and has so far only been identified in wild animals from equatorial Africa. In other words, it is only a potential risk for humans and was first described in 2018. In addition to this virus, there are five known species of this genus:
- Ebola virus (Ebola virus from Zaire);
- Sudan Virus (Ebola from Sudan);
- Tai Forest Virus (Tai Forest Ebola);
- Bundibugyo virus (Ebola virus Bundibugyo);
- Reston virus (Reston Ebola) — which only caused disease in non-human primates.
Of all the known species, Ebola is the most dangerous and still today causes epidemics in the countries of East and Central Africa, where it was first discovered. Between 2014 and 2016, up to two-thirds of those infected died from the disease, according to the study authors.
Research with Bombali
First, the research team assessed whether the Bombali virus could infect humans. In the laboratory, the infectious agent was isolated and then brought into contact with human macrophages – white blood cells that “feed” on invading organisms.
Similar to Ebola, Bombali “infected human cells and primary human macrophages,” according to the authors. Moreover, the infectious agent was able to “effectively enter cells” by the same mechanism as its viral cousin.
“Both the BOMV [Bombali] how much the EBOV [Ebola] induces pro-inflammatory genes while inhibiting the expression of key macrophage receptors important for controlling phagocytosis and antigen presentation,” the authors detail.
In addition to testing the virus’s ability to infect human cells and “evade” the immune response, researchers sought to understand how available Ebola drugs might work against Bombali. Specifically, the efficacy of remdesivir and monoclonal (synthetic) antibody antiviral therapies were tested.
When remdesivir was given at the same dose as Ebola, the drug helped suppress virus replication and prevent infection, the authors explain. In the case of synthetic antibodies, not all have had the same positive effect. The loss of effectiveness can be explained by mutations between viruses of different species, which limits the power of range.
The advantage is that in the event of a pandemic, science will already know where to start studying. Preclinical testing provides important knowledge, although they need to be confirmed in humans.