Please not I am not a doctor of medicine or virology, this article is based on information made public by those who are.
Tumour susceptibility gene 101or TSG101 is one of a group of apparently inactive ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes. Say that quickly three times.
In the title I called it the killer inside all of us, it’s not actually, I’m following the long tradition of newspapers to spice up the title a little. But just a little. The thing about TSG101 is that it is considered to normally be a dormant gene but under certain conditions it has a very negative effect on the human body. Breast cancer being a prime example. Hence its name Tumour Susceptibility Gene 101.
This gene is important because of its role in other threats to humans. It is linked to HIV where it attaches itself to the HIV virus as it infects cells of the victim’s body and helps the virus to multiple and break free of the cell to spread and infect other cells where the virus is again attached to this gene and again helped.
Work to break this chain has been underway for many years, a drug that could block the interaction between the gene and the virus would prevent the spread of HIV in an infected person. So the virus could not spread, they would not suffer damage to their immune system and they would not become contagious to others.
A one stop way of completely preventing both the effect of HIV and its spread.
At the end of 2011 new research by the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Centre at New York's Rockefeller University came up with new and important findings about Ebola. The researchers, led by Dr. Paul Bieniasz, proved that Ebola in its initial infection and spread used the same propagation method as HIV. The Ebola virus invades a cell, is attached to TSG101, the combination of gene and virus then multiplies and escapes the cell to infect new cells where the virus again bonds with TSG101 and the process continues.
The same process as used by HIV.
As long ago as 1996 similarities between HIV and Ebola had been identified:
Doctor William Gallaher, Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology at the Louisiana State University said on Friday (May 17) that the stem portion of the Ebola virus was actually very similar to that of HIV which causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).
But it has not been until recently with the steady advancement in genetic science that the effects of individual genes could be studied.
The two viruses have different effects, HIV attacks the body’s immune system where as Ebola breaks down the cell structure itself so the end results are very different but the way in which both viruses spread and infect is in fact the same.
There have been rumours for a while now about a cure for Aids. Rumours say that this cure may well have been on MH17. If such a cure did exist and worked to suppress the effects of TSG101 then it would also have worked on Ebola. Given the steady increase in cases and the spreading of this terrible virus such a breakthrough would save many lives.
Ebola has traditionally failed to spread far from the initial outbreak, it was too fast acting and too lethal. The infected generally dies where they were and didn’t have the time to move far or infect others. However the current Ebola outbreak has a much longer incubation period, this allows the infected to travel further before the symptoms begin to manifest. Combined with modern international transport such as aircraft this increases the risk of the virus spreading far higher than it has been in previous outbreaks.
You will notice that I am quoting news from years or even decades ago; all of this is background to my point.
Yesterday an elderly woman walked off a flight from Africa at Gatwick Airport, collapsed and died soon afterwards. She was described as sweating profusely and vomiting. The natural fear was Ebola though tests after her death are reporting that she did not have that virus. The actual cause of death has not yet been released.
So much fear and panic. The airport is said to have followed all procedures. Officially the woman showed no sign of being ill on the flight though it is a little hard to believe that something that left her sweating, vomiting and then collapsed near death in the space of a few steps coming off a plane had no previous signs at all.
Several hundred potential victims who could have been infected, the aircraft quarantined. Even the poor sod who drove the fuel truck out to refuel the aircraft was quarantined.
The plane had flown in from Sierra Leone via Gambia, more than 250 official deaths from the disease in Sierra Leone and you can fly from there to Gatwick and then on to most of the world with thousands of potential victims at the airport.
A few days ago we were seeing stories about the class four contagious medical beds available to deal with an Ebola victim, reassuring, the UK is prepared, and we have state of the art equipment ready to handle anyone infected with the virus. Until you stopped looking at the reporters doing the talking and took a good look at the ward and the beds, all two of them.
At present Ebola is just an African problem, there have been no cases in Europe so it is nothing more than scare stories talked about by people who are paranoid.
Aids is the modern western problem, billions spent trying to deal with it or cure it. The Aids treatment drugs are costly and need to be taken for the rest of the victim’s life. There is no drug of any use against Ebola
But HIV and Ebola have very similar methods of infection, replication and spreading. Research and medication developed to block the spread of HIV using a method of blocking TSG101 would also work on the initial infection stages of Ebola.
Researchers and doctors who are experts in virology and focus on HIV can work with Ebola fairly easily. The same methods and research facilities for fighting one can be used against the other.
So as reports of infections and deaths reach us daily from Africa, as rumours have it that the actual death toll is vastly higher than is being admitted with victims being turned away from overcrowded hospitals and therefore not recorded in the official figures. As we find potential victims being tested for Ebola in Scotland and London.
We should ask ourselves. As Ebola spreads and the fear of it spreads, how much are we going to miss the skills, experience and dedication of the men and women of Aids research who lost their lives in MH17? They have been described as leaving a vast hole in global Aids research, of irreplaceable skill and experience.
As the days and weeks pass and more lives are lost both to HIV and to Ebola, how different might things be had they lived?