Research ArticleInfectious diseases

An Orally Available, Small-Molecule Polymerase Inhibitor Shows Efficacy Against a Lethal Morbillivirus Infection in a Large Animal Model

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Science Translational Medicine  16 Apr 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 232, pp. 232ra52
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3008517

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Measles virus is a highly infectious morbillivirus responsible for major morbidity and mortality in unvaccinated humans. The related, zoonotic canine distemper virus (CDV) induces morbillivirus disease in ferrets with 100% lethality. We report an orally available, shelf-stable pan-morbillivirus inhibitor that targets the viral RNA polymerase. Prophylactic oral treatment of ferrets infected intranasally with a lethal CDV dose reduced viremia and prolonged survival. Ferrets infected with the same dose of virus that received post-infection treatment at the onset of viremia showed low-grade viral loads, remained asymptomatic, and recovered from infection, whereas control animals succumbed to the disease. Animals that recovered also mounted a robust immune response and were protected against rechallenge with a lethal CDV dose. Drug-resistant viral recombinants were generated and found to be attenuated and transmission-impaired compared to the genetic parent virus. These findings may pioneer a path toward an effective morbillivirus therapy that could aid measles eradication by synergizing with vaccination to close gaps in herd immunity due to vaccine refusal.

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