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Ebola, a former plant virus? & other musings....

Brett Lindenbach brett at borcim.wustl.edu
Tue May 4 13:22:05 EST 1999

Cyril,  I just wandered onto this thread.  You may be interested to know that
some mononegavirales can indeed infect plants.  My recollection is that VSV
may have a plant counterpart, although I don't recall whether this occurs
in nature.  You might also be interested in the work of Paul Ahlquist, who
studies plant and animal virus RNA replication in yeast.  One of these viruses,
flock house, has been shown to also replicate in plants, animals (insects and
mammalian cells), and in yeast.  BTW, Ebola is not known to "integrate".
Kingdom hopping may not be so baroque as you might think! ;^)

>I think that Ebola was always dangerous to man, but it never got in contact
>with man to wreak havoc on him until he ran into it somewhere in Africa.
>Retroviruses are pretty smart suckers so it does not seem that logical
>that one
>that is not lethal to man would evolve into to something that is lethal. The
>former scenario allows the virus to replicate and spread while the latter
>the spread of the virus. It is not beneficial to the virus to kill its
>host, so
>it would seem not beneficial for Ebola to evolve from a strain that allows
>host live (thus allowing it to thrive) to a strain that kills its host (which
>curtails its ability to replicate).
>Who has said that Ebola might have been a plant virus? Was this work
>Is that "kingdom-jump" been supported at all in literature? I would think it
>would be hard for this switch to occur. If this were true, just think
>about the
>myriad of viral diseases we would pick up from other animals alone! I would
>think that before we see a plant virus invade humans, that animal viruses
>achieve the switch first. The physical makeup of plants and animals are too
>different, in order for Ebola to switch, it needs to run into the same or
>similar virus receptor in humans, come across the same/very similar uncoating
>mechanism, integration mechanism, and gene expression mechanism, etc. The
>switch is just too gargantuan to imagine. I should know because I tried
>targeting a mouse retrovirus to infect human cells for gene therapy purposes
>and failed. And that's a animal to animal switch,  a mere genus to genus
>switch. That's why I can't imagine how a plant virus could switch to
>become an
>animal virus. It just doesn't make sense.
>Finally, Paul Bates at UPENN is looking at generating antibodies against
>using a strip-down version of the virus and should be poised to identify the
>elusive Ebola receptor. For a more scientific look at Ebola, check out PubMed
>in the NCBI site and search for Ebola work that has been peer-reviewed for
>publication in the leading journals such as Science, Nature and PNAS.

Brett Lindenbach
brett at borcim.wustl.edu
Dept of Molecular Microbiology
Washington University School of Medicine
phone:	(314) 362-2767
fax:	(314) 362-1232

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