Associate Professor of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School of Medicine, Dr. Ronald Harty and his team are researching viruses and their molecular traits. They are working towards reducing and/or eliminating their ability to spread infection.
Viruses such as Ebola do not reproduce by themselves but by a process called “budding”. These viruses – Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers, rabies and more -, zoontic in nature, penetrate cell membranes and replicate, then “budding off” from the host cell which they destroy.
One of the difficulties in finding anti-viral drugs is that when they viruses reproduce (by budding), they mutate very quickly and become resistant to drugs.
Scientists are targeting the virus-host interaction to block or slow budding. The hope is that the viruses will not mutate as easily and that they can discover a way to inhibit budding. This would allow the immune system to respond and protect the body from the virus.
Since many viruses are zoonotic and spread by animals, research is carried on at veterinary schools as well as other sites. Another way animals are helping humans overcome deadly diseases.