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Australia Ebola breakthrough

26 February 2016 by News Desk

Australian scientists are one step closer to beating killer viruses such as Ebola following a major discovery involving… bats.


Australia, home of world-class scientific research, has unlocked one of the secrets that make some viruses difficult or impossible to treat in humans.

Bats can carry over 100 different viruses yet do not suffer any ill-effects. Now Australian scientists say they have discovered why, and it could lead to a cure for killer viruses like Ebola.

Scientists at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) studied the immune system of the Australian black flying fox. During this research they discovered that, unlike humans, bats have just three key proteins that are used to fight off invading viruses.

Humans have around 75% more of these proteins, called interferons, which all mammals – including bats – release in response to an invading virus as a means of blocking replication.

“Bats have a unique ability to control viral infections that are lethal in people and yet they can do this with a lower number of interferons,” says Dr Michelle Baker, a bat immunologist at CSIRO.

Humans and other mammals activate their immune system only in response to infection. However, the bats’ defence is constantly ‘switched on’ and acts as a powerful defence against viruses and disease.

For other mammals, having this immune response constantly switched on is dangerous as it is toxic to tissue and cells. Interestingly, with bats it has no effect other than to protect it against viruses.

The researchers at Australia’s CSIRO say that if they can replicate the bats’ natural defences in humans then killer viruses like Ebola and other infectious diseases could one day become a thing of the past.

To learn more visit CSIRO’s website.

If you’re interested in studying science or other subjects in Australia find out in our Study section.

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