Some people survive the deadly Ebola virus while others are not, this purely happens due to genes, a new study says on Thursday. Scientists from the University of Washington, University of North Carolina, and the National Institute of Health in Montana, compared conventional lab mice with genetically diverse lab mice.
In addition to encouraging other Ebola researchers to work with these mouse models, Rasmussen and her colleagues are beginning to investigate just which genes make a mouse more or less likely to become ill with the disease. Some of these variations may be applicable to humans, or at least point researchers in the right direction.
“This paper isn’t earth shattering, but it’s the first step in being able to do this kind of genetic analysis in humans,” co-study head Michael Katze said. “You can go to the doctor and get your genome sequenced and find out how likely you are to get certain types of cancer. Maybe someday they’ll also say, ‘Hey, don’t go to West Africa, it looks like you’re susceptible to Ebola.’ That’s the dream.”
The conventional lab mice typically die when infected with a mouse version of Ebola while the genetically diverse lab mice developed a wide range of symptoms in the same way that people infected with the virus do. The study found that the genetically diverse mice showed a number of different symptoms including mild weight loss to full, hemorrhagic fever, including internal bleeding, swollen spleens, and changes in liver color and texture. Angela Rasmussen, a microbiologist at the University of Washington, said the findings showed the different ways in which the mice were affected and it also showed the variety of symptoms seen in humans in the recent Ebola outbreak.
Professor Andrew Easton, a virologist at the University of Warwick, said the study shows that host genes influence which cells become infected and how much the virus replicates. He said although the study provided valuable information, it could not be directly applied to humans because they have a much larger variety of genetic combinations than mice.