Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have identified a protein that appears to be the key to the uncontrollable bleeding that is a hallmark of Ebola virus infection (Nat Med. 2000;6:886-889).
The investigators found that one of Ebola virus's seven gene products, a glycoprotein (GP) that extends out from the surface of the virus, is apparently responsible for the virus's toxic effects. In studies of isolated blood vessels, GP caused the vessels to become leaky because of massive loss of the endothelial cells that line them. However, GP from a monkey strain of Ebola virus that does not cause illness in humans destroyed only monkey blood vessels, not human ones.
Stephenson J. Ebola's Killer Protein Identified. JAMA. 2000;284(11):1371. doi:10.1001/jama.284.11.1371