Researchers at BU begin experimenting with Ebola

BOSTON — A lab in Boston was approved to study one of the world's deadliest viruses.

On Thursday, Boston University's National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) announced in a press release that they have started experimenting with the Ebola virus.

NEIDL microbiologist Elke Mühlberger said the lab’s first project will examine how the Ebola virus damages cells in the liver and why it triggers such a powerful inflammatory response.

Mühlberger said the answers to those questions could speed the development of how to treat the Ebola virus disease. In a 2014-2016 outbreak, the virus led to more than 11,000 deaths in West Africa. And a few months ago in May, an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo killed 29 people.

The researchers at NEIDL are also experimenting with the Marbug virus. Like Ebola, Marburg is deadly and causes convulsions and bleeding of mucous membranes, skin and organs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mühlberger said their plans include at least three projects involving both the Ebola and Marburg viruses. But the first step of their work will be growing the rare Level-4 pathogens to produce enough materials for their experiments.

“This is clearly an important step for the NEIDL,” said Ronald B. Corley, NEIDL Director and professor of microbiology. “This will permit us to fulfill our mission of studying emerging pathogens and developing diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines for these pathogens. It has taken a very long time to get to this point, but the time that has passed has not dampened our enthusiasm—and excitement."

The NEIDL was given permission to work with these dangerous viruses eight months ago. According to the researchers at Boston University, Ebola can only be experimented within a lab with Bio Safety Level-4 containment, the highest classification from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Currently there is no available FDA-approved vaccine or therapy for Ebola virus. The research team at NEIDL is hoping to change that.

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