Publications by authors named "Alexander N Freiberg"

83 Publications

Potent neutralization of Rift Valley fever virus by human monoclonal antibodies through fusion inhibition.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2021 Apr;118(14)

Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN 37232;

Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV), an emerging arboviral and zoonotic bunyavirus, causes severe disease in livestock and humans. Here, we report the isolation of a panel of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) from the B cells of immune individuals following natural infection in Kenya or immunization with MP-12 vaccine. The B cell responses of individuals who were vaccinated or naturally infected recognized similar epitopes on both Gc and Gn proteins. The Gn-specific mAbs and two mAbs that do not recognize either monomeric Gc or Gn alone but recognized the hetero-oligomer glycoprotein complex (Gc+Gn) when Gc and Gn were coexpressed exhibited potent neutralizing activities in vitro, while Gc-specific mAbs exhibited relatively lower neutralizing capacity. The two Gc+Gn-specific mAbs and the Gn domain A-specific mAbs inhibited RVFV fusion to cells, suggesting that mAbs can inhibit the exposure of the fusion loop in Gc, a class II fusion protein, and thus prevent fusion by an indirect mechanism without direct fusion loop contact. Competition-binding analysis with coexpressed Gc/Gn and mutagenesis library screening indicated that these mAbs recognize four major antigenic sites, with two sites of vulnerability for neutralization on Gn. In experimental models of infection in mice, representative mAbs recognizing three of the antigenic sites reduced morbidity and mortality when used at a low dose in both prophylactic and therapeutic settings. This study identifies multiple candidate mAbs that may be suitable for use in humans against RVFV infection and highlights fusion inhibition against bunyaviruses as a potential contributor to potent antibody-mediated neutralization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2025642118DOI Listing
April 2021

Inhibition of innate immune response ameliorates Zika virus-induced neurogenesis deficit in human neural stem cells.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2021 Mar 3;15(3):e0009183. Epub 2021 Mar 3.

Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, United States of America.

Global Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreaks and their strong link to microcephaly have raised major public health concerns. ZIKV has been reported to affect the innate immune responses in neural stem/progenitor cells (NS/PCs). However, it is unclear how these immune factors affect neurogenesis. In this study, we used Asian-American lineage ZIKV strain PRVABC59 to infect primary human NS/PCs originally derived from fetal brains. We found that ZIKV overactivated key molecules in the innate immune pathways to impair neurogenesis in a cell stage-dependent manner. Inhibiting the overactivated innate immune responses ameliorated ZIKV-induced neurogenesis reduction. This study thus suggests that orchestrating the host innate immune responses in NS/PCs after ZIKV infection could be promising therapeutic approach to attenuate ZIKV-associated neuropathology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0009183DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7959377PMC
March 2021

Loss of furin cleavage site attenuates SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis.

Nature 2021 03 25;591(7849):293-299. Epub 2021 Jan 25.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, USA.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-a new coronavirus that has led to a worldwide pandemic-has a furin cleavage site (PRRAR) in its spike protein that is absent in other group-2B coronaviruses. To explore whether the furin cleavage site contributes to infection and pathogenesis in this virus, we generated a mutant SARS-CoV-2 that lacks the furin cleavage site (ΔPRRA). Here we report that replicates of ΔPRRA SARS-CoV-2 had faster kinetics, improved fitness in Vero E6 cells and reduced spike protein processing, as compared to parental SARS-CoV-2. However, the ΔPRRA mutant had reduced replication in a human respiratory cell line and was attenuated in both hamster and K18-hACE2 transgenic mouse models of SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis. Despite reduced disease, the ΔPRRA mutant conferred protection against rechallenge with the parental SARS-CoV-2. Importantly, the neutralization values of sera from patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and monoclonal antibodies against the receptor-binding domain of SARS-CoV-2 were lower against the ΔPRRA mutant than against parental SARS-CoV-2, probably owing to an increased ratio of particles to plaque-forming units in infections with the former. Together, our results demonstrate a critical role for the furin cleavage site in infection with SARS-CoV-2 and highlight the importance of this site for evaluating the neutralization activities of antibodies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03237-4DOI Listing
March 2021

Targeted disruption of pi-pi stacking in Malaysian banana lectin reduces mitogenicity while preserving antiviral activity.

Sci Rep 2021 Jan 12;11(1):656. Epub 2021 Jan 12.

Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109, USA.

Lectins, carbohydrate-binding proteins, have been regarded as potential antiviral agents, as some can bind glycans on viral surface glycoproteins and inactivate their functions. However, clinical development of lectins has been stalled by the mitogenicity of many of these proteins, which is the ability to stimulate deleterious proliferation, especially of immune cells. We previously demonstrated that the mitogenic and antiviral activities of a lectin (banana lectin, BanLec) can be separated via a single amino acid mutation, histidine to threonine at position 84 (H84T), within the third Greek key. The resulting lectin, H84T BanLec, is virtually non-mitogenic but retains antiviral activity. Decreased mitogenicity was associated with disruption of pi-pi stacking between two aromatic amino acids. To examine whether we could provide further proof-of-principle of the ability to separate these two distinct lectin functions, we identified another lectin, Malaysian banana lectin (Malay BanLec), with similar structural features as BanLec, including pi-pi stacking, but with only 63% amino acid identity, and showed that it is both mitogenic and potently antiviral. We then engineered an F84T mutation expected to disrupt pi-pi stacking, analogous to H84T. As predicted, F84T Malay BanLec (F84T) was less mitogenic than wild type. However, F84T maintained strong antiviral activity and inhibited replication of HIV, Ebola, and other viruses. The F84T mutation disrupted pi-pi stacking without disrupting the overall lectin structure. These findings show that pi-pi stacking in the third Greek key is a conserved mitogenic motif in these two jacalin-related lectins BanLec and Malay BanLec, and further highlight the potential to rationally engineer antiviral lectins for therapeutic purposes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-80577-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7804308PMC
January 2021

SARS-CoV-2 proteases PLpro and 3CLpro cleave IRF3 and critical modulators of inflammatory pathways (NLRP12 and TAB1): implications for disease presentation across species.

Emerg Microbes Infect 2021 Dec;10(1):178-195

EMBL Australia Node for Single Molecule Sciences, and School of Medical Sciences, Botany Road, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

The genome of SARS-CoV-2 encodes two viral proteases (NSP3/papain-like protease and NSP5/3C-like protease) that are responsible for cleaving viral polyproteins during replication. Here, we discovered new functions of the NSP3 and NSP5 proteases of SARS-CoV-2, demonstrating that they could directly cleave proteins involved in the host innate immune response. We identified 3 proteins that were specifically and selectively cleaved by NSP3 or NSP5: IRF-3, and NLRP12 and TAB1, respectively. Direct cleavage of IRF3 by NSP3 could explain the blunted Type-I IFN response seen during SARS-CoV-2 infections while NSP5 mediated cleavage of NLRP12 and TAB1 point to a molecular mechanism for enhanced production of cytokines and inflammatory responThe genome of SARS-CoV-2 encodes two viral proteases (NSP3/papain-like protease and NSP5/3C-like protease) that are responsible for cleaving viral polyproteins during replication. Here, we discovered new functions of the NSP3 and NSP5 proteases of SARS-CoV-2, demonstrating that they could directly cleave proteins involved in the host innate immune response. We identified 3 proteins that were specifically and selectively cleaved by NSP3 or NSP5: IRF-3, and NLRP12 and TAB1, respectively. Direct cleavage of IRF3 by NSP3 could explain the blunted Type-I IFN response seen during SARS-CoV-2 infections while NSP5 mediated cleavage of NLRP12 and TAB1 point to a molecular mechanism for enhanced production of cytokines and inflammatory response observed in COVID-19 patients. We demonstrate that in the mouse NLRP12 protein, one of the recognition site is not cleaved in our assay. We pushed this comparative alignment of IRF-3 and NLRP12 homologs and show that the lack or presence of cognate cleavage motifs in IRF-3 and NLRP12 could contribute to the presentation of disease in cats and tigers, for example. Our findings provide an explanatory framework for indepth studies into the pathophysiology of COVID-19.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/22221751.2020.1870414DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7850364PMC
December 2021

Spike mutation D614G alters SARS-CoV-2 fitness.

Nature 2021 04 26;592(7852):116-121. Epub 2020 Oct 26.

Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, USA.

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein substitution D614G became dominant during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. However, the effect of this variant on viral spread and vaccine efficacy remains to be defined. Here we engineered the spike D614G substitution in the USA-WA1/2020 SARS-CoV-2 strain, and found that it enhances viral replication in human lung epithelial cells and primary human airway tissues by increasing the infectivity and stability of virions. Hamsters infected with SARS-CoV-2 expressing spike(D614G) (G614 virus) produced higher infectious titres in nasal washes and the trachea, but not in the lungs, supporting clinical evidence showing that the mutation enhances viral loads in the upper respiratory tract of COVID-19 patients and may increase transmission. Sera from hamsters infected with D614 virus exhibit modestly higher neutralization titres against G614 virus than against D614 virus, suggesting that the mutation is unlikely to reduce the ability of vaccines in clinical trials to protect against COVID-19, and that therapeutic antibodies should be tested against the circulating G614 virus. Together with clinical findings, our work underscores the importance of this variant in viral spread and its implications for vaccine efficacy and antibody therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2895-3DOI Listing
April 2021

Spike mutation D614G alters SARS-CoV-2 fitness and neutralization susceptibility.

bioRxiv 2020 Sep 2. Epub 2020 Sep 2.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston TX, USA.

A spike protein mutation D614G became dominant in SARS-CoV-2 during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the mutational impact on viral spread and vaccine efficacy remains to be defined. Here we engineer the D614G mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 USA-WA1/2020 strain and characterize its effect on viral replication, pathogenesis, and antibody neutralization. The D614G mutation significantly enhances SARS-CoV-2 replication on human lung epithelial cells and primary human airway tissues, through an improved infectivity of virions with the spike receptor-binding domain in an "up" conformation for binding to ACE2 receptor. Hamsters infected with D614 or G614 variants developed similar levels of weight loss. However, the G614 virus produced higher infectious titers in the nasal washes and trachea, but not lungs, than the D614 virus. The hamster results confirm clinical evidence that the D614G mutation enhances viral loads in the upper respiratory tract of COVID-19 patients and may increases transmission. For antibody neutralization, sera from D614 virus-infected hamsters consistently exhibit higher neutralization titers against G614 virus than those against D614 virus, indicating that (i) the mutation may not reduce the ability of vaccines in clinical trials to protect against COVID-19 and (ii) therapeutic antibodies should be tested against the circulating G614 virus before clinical development.

Importance: Understanding the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential for disease control and prevention. A spike protein mutation D614G emerged and became dominant soon after the pandemic started. By engineering the D614G mutation into an authentic wild-type SARS-CoV-2 strain, we demonstrate the importance of this mutation to (i) enhanced viral replication on human lung epithelial cells and primary human airway tissues, (ii) improved viral fitness in the upper airway of infected hamsters, and (iii) increased susceptibility to neutralization. Together with clinical findings, our work underscores the importance of this mutation in viral spread, vaccine efficacy, and antibody therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.09.01.278689DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7480025PMC
September 2020

Furin Cleavage Site Is Key to SARS-CoV-2 Pathogenesis.

bioRxiv 2020 Aug 26. Epub 2020 Aug 26.

SARS-CoV-2 has resulted in a global pandemic and shutdown economies around the world. Sequence analysis indicates that the novel coronavirus (CoV) has an insertion of a furin cleavage site (PRRAR) in its spike protein. Absent in other group 2B CoVs, the insertion may be a key factor in the replication and virulence of SARS-CoV-2. To explore this question, we generated a SARS-CoV-2 mutant lacking the furin cleavage site (ΔPRRA) in the spike protein. This mutant virus replicated with faster kinetics and improved fitness in Vero E6 cells. The mutant virus also had reduced spike protein processing as compared to wild-type SARS-CoV-2. In contrast, the ΔPRRA had reduced replication in Calu3 cells, a human respiratory cell line, and had attenuated disease in a hamster pathogenesis model. Despite the reduced disease, the ΔPRRA mutant offered robust protection from SARS-CoV-2 rechallenge. Importantly, plaque reduction neutralization tests (PRNT ) with COVID-19 patient sera and monoclonal antibodies against the receptor-binding domain found a shift, with the mutant virus resulting in consistently reduced PRNT titers. Together, these results demonstrate a critical role for the furin cleavage site insertion in SARS-CoV-2 replication and pathogenesis. In addition, these findings illustrate the importance of this insertion in evaluating neutralization and other downstream SARS-CoV-2 assays.

Importance: As COVID-19 has impacted the world, understanding how SARS-CoV-2 replicates and causes virulence offers potential pathways to disrupt its disease. By removing the furin cleavage site, we demonstrate the importance of this insertion to SARS-CoV-2 replication and pathogenesis. In addition, the findings with Vero cells indicate the likelihood of cell culture adaptations in virus stocks that can influence reagent generation and interpretation of a wide range of data including neutralization and drug efficacy. Overall, our work highlights the importance of this key motif in SARS-CoV-2 infection and pathogenesis.

Article Summary: A deletion of the furin cleavage site in SARS-CoV-2 amplifies replication in Vero cells, but attenuates replication in respiratory cells and pathogenesis in vivo. Loss of the furin site also reduces susceptibility to neutralization .
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.08.26.268854DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7457603PMC
August 2020

Pyronaridine tetraphosphate efficacy against Ebola virus infection in guinea pig.

Antiviral Res 2020 09 16;181:104863. Epub 2020 Jul 16.

Collaborations Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 840 Main Campus Drive, Lab 3510, Raleigh, NC, 27606, USA. Electronic address:

The recent outbreaks of the Ebola virus (EBOV) in Africa have brought global visibility to the shortage of available therapeutic options to treat patients infected with this or closely related viruses. We have recently computationally identified three molecules which have all demonstrated statistically significant efficacy in the mouse model of infection with mouse adapted Ebola virus (ma-EBOV). One of these molecules is the antimalarial pyronaridine tetraphosphate (IC range of 0.82-1.30 μM against three strains of EBOV and IC range of 1.01-2.72 μM against two strains of Marburg virus (MARV)) which is an approved drug in the European Union and used in combination with artesunate. To date, no small molecule drugs have shown statistically significant efficacy in the guinea pig model of EBOV infection. Pharmacokinetics and range-finding studies in guinea pigs directed us to a single 300 mg/kg or 600 mg/kg oral dose of pyronaridine 1hr after infection. Pyronaridine resulted in statistically significant survival of 40% at 300 mg/kg and protected from a lethal challenge with EBOV. In comparison, oral favipiravir (300 mg/kg dosed once a day) had 43.5% survival. All animals in the vehicle treatment group succumbed to disease by study day 12 (100% mortality). The in vitro metabolism and metabolite identification of pyronaridine and another of our EBOV active molecules, tilorone, suggested significant species differences which may account for the efficacy or lack thereof, respectively in guinea pig. In summary, our studies with pyronaridine demonstrates its utility for repurposing as an antiviral against EBOV and MARV.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.antiviral.2020.104863DOI Listing
September 2020

Discovery of Adamantane Carboxamides as Ebola Virus Cell Entry and Glycoprotein Inhibitors.

ACS Med Chem Lett 2020 Jun 1;11(6):1160-1167. Epub 2020 May 1.

Arisan Therapeutics, 11189 Sorrento Valley Road, Suite 104, San Diego, California 92121, United States.

We identified and explored the structure-activity-relationship (SAR) of an adamantane carboxamide chemical series of Ebola virus (EBOV) inhibitors. Selected analogs exhibited half-maximal inhibitory concentrations (EC values) of ∼10-15 nM in (VSV) pseudotyped EBOV (pEBOV) infectivity assays, low hundred nanomolar EC activity against wild type EBOV, aqueous solubility >20 mg/mL, and attractive metabolic stability in human and nonhuman liver microsomes. X-ray cocrystallographic characterizations of a lead compound with the EBOV glycoprotein (GP) established the EBOV GP as a target for direct compound inhibitory activity and further provided relevant structural models that may assist in identifying optimized therapeutic candidates.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acsmedchemlett.0c00025DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7294737PMC
June 2020

Niemann-Pick C1 Heterogeneity of Bat Cells Controls Filovirus Tropism.

Cell Rep 2020 01;30(2):308-319.e5

Division of Global Epidemiology, Research Center for Zoonosis Control, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 001-0020, Japan; Global Station for Zoonosis Control, Global Institution for Collaborative Research and Education, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 001-0020, Japan; Department of Disease Control, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Zambia, Lusaka 10101, Zambia. Electronic address:

Fruit bats are suspected to be natural hosts of filoviruses, including Ebola virus (EBOV) and Marburg virus (MARV). Interestingly, however, previous studies suggest that these viruses have different tropisms depending on the bat species. Here, we show a molecular basis underlying the host-range restriction of filoviruses. We find that bat-derived cell lines FBKT1 and ZFBK13-76E show preferential susceptibility to EBOV and MARV, respectively, whereas the other bat cell lines tested are similarly infected with both viruses. In FBKT1 and ZFBK13-76E, unique amino acid (aa) sequences are found in the Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1) protein, one of the cellular receptors interacting with the filovirus glycoprotein (GP). These aa residues, as well as a few aa differences between EBOV and MARV GPs, are crucial for the differential susceptibility to filoviruses. Taken together, our findings indicate that the heterogeneity of bat NPC1 orthologs is an important factor controlling filovirus species-specific host tropism.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2019.12.042DOI Listing
January 2020

VAMP8 Contributes to the TRIM6-Mediated Type I Interferon Antiviral Response during West Nile Virus Infection.

J Virol 2020 01 6;94(2). Epub 2020 Jan 6.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA

Several members of the tripartite motif (TRIM) family of E3 ubiquitin ligases regulate immune pathways, including the antiviral type I interferon (IFN-I) system. Previously, we demonstrated that TRIM6 is involved in IFN-I induction and signaling. In the absence of TRIM6, optimal IFN-I signaling is reduced, allowing increased replication of interferon-sensitive viruses. Despite having evolved numerous mechanisms to restrict the vertebrate host's IFN-I response, West Nile virus (WNV) replication is sensitive to pretreatment with IFN-I. However, the regulators and products of the IFN-I pathway that are important in regulating WNV replication are incompletely defined. Consistent with WNV's sensitivity to IFN-I, we found that in TRIM6 knockout (TRIM6-KO) A549 cells, WNV replication is significantly increased and IFN-I induction and signaling are impaired compared to wild-type (wt) cells. IFN-β pretreatment was more effective in protecting against subsequent WNV infection in wt cells than TRIM6-KO, indicating that TRIM6 contributes to the establishment of an IFN-induced antiviral response against WNV. Using next-generation sequencing, we identified VAMP8 as a potential factor involved in this TRIM6-mediated antiviral response. VAMP8 knockdown resulted in reduced JAK1 and STAT1 phosphorylation and impaired induction of several interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) following WNV infection or IFN-β treatment. Furthermore, VAMP8-mediated STAT1 phosphorylation required the presence of TRIM6. Therefore, the VAMP8 protein is a novel regulator of IFN-I signaling, and its expression and function are dependent on TRIM6 activity. Overall, these results provide evidence that TRIM6 contributes to the antiviral response against WNV and identify VAMP8 as a novel regulator of the IFN-I system. WNV is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that poses a threat to human health across large discontinuous areas throughout the world. Infection with WNV results in febrile illness, which can progress to severe neurological disease. Currently, there are no approved treatment options to control WNV infection. Understanding the cellular immune responses that regulate viral replication is important in diversifying the resources available to control WNV. Here, we show that the elimination of TRIM6 in human cells results in an increase in WNV replication and alters the expression and function of other components of the IFN-I pathway through VAMP8. Dissecting the interactions between WNV and host defenses both informs basic molecular virology and promotes the development of host- and virus-targeted antiviral strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.01454-19DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6955268PMC
January 2020

SAR studies of 4-acyl-1,6-dialkylpiperazin-2-one arenavirus cell entry inhibitors.

Bioorg Med Chem Lett 2019 11 24;29(22):126620. Epub 2019 Aug 24.

Arisan Therapeutics, 11189 Sorrento Valley Rd, Suite 104, San Diego, CA 92054, United States. Electronic address:

Old World (Africa) and New World (South America) arenaviruses are associated with human hemorrhagic fevers. Efforts to develop small molecule therapeutics have yielded several chemical series including the 4-acyl-1,6-dialkylpiperazin-2-ones. Herein, we describe an extensive exploration of this chemotype. In initial Phase I studies, R and R scanning libraries were assayed to identify potent substituents against Old World (Lassa) virus. In subsequent Phase II studies, R substituents and iterative R, R and R substituent combinations were evaluated to obtain compounds with improved Lassa and New World (Machupo, Junin, and Tacaribe) arenavirus inhibitory activity, in vitro human liver microsome metabolic stability and aqueous solubility.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bmcl.2019.08.024DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6803051PMC
November 2019

Peptidoglycan-Associated Cyclic Lipopeptide Disrupts Viral Infectivity.

J Virol 2019 11 29;93(22). Epub 2019 Oct 29.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Galveston, Texas, USA

Enteric viruses exploit bacterial components, including lipopolysaccharides (LPS) and peptidoglycan (PG), to facilitate infection in humans. Because of their origin in the bat enteric system, we wondered if severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) or Middle East respiratory syndrome CoV (MERS-CoV) also use bacterial components to modulate infectivity. To test this question, we incubated CoVs with LPS and PG and evaluated infectivity, finding no change following LPS treatment. However, PG from reduced infection >10,000-fold, while PG from other bacterial species failed to recapitulate this. Treatment with an alcohol solvent transferred inhibitory activity to the wash, and mass spectrometry revealed surfactin, a cyclic lipopeptide antibiotic, as the inhibitory compound. This antibiotic had robust dose- and temperature-dependent inhibition of CoV infectivity. Mechanistic studies indicated that surfactin disrupts CoV virion integrity, and surfactin treatment of the virus inoculum ablated infection Finally, similar cyclic lipopeptides had no effect on CoV infectivity, and the inhibitory effect of surfactin extended broadly to enveloped viruses, including influenza, Ebola, Zika, Nipah, chikungunya, Una, Mayaro, Dugbe, and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever viruses. Overall, our results indicate that peptidoglycan-associated surfactin has broad viricidal activity and suggest that bacteria by-products may negatively modulate virus infection. In this article, we consider a role for bacteria in shaping coronavirus infection. Taking cues from studies of enteric viruses, we initially investigated how bacterial surface components might improve CoV infection. Instead, we found that peptidoglycan-associated surfactin is a potent viricidal compound that disrupts virion integrity with broad activity against enveloped viruses. Our results indicate that interactions with commensal bacterial may improve or disrupt viral infections, highlighting the importance of understanding these microbial interactions and their implications for viral pathogenesis and treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.01282-19DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6819921PMC
November 2019

Polyphenylene carboxymethylene (PPCM) in vitro antiviral efficacy against Ebola virus in the context of a sexually transmitted infection.

Antiviral Res 2019 10 24;170:104567. Epub 2019 Jul 24.

Department of Pathology, Galveston, TX, 77555, USA; Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, Galveston, TX, 77555, USA; Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, 77555, USA. Electronic address:

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is caused by Ebola virus (EBOV) and characterized in humans by hemorrhagic fever with high fatality rates. Human-to-human EBOV transmission occurs by physical contact with infected body fluids, or indirectly by contaminated surfaces. Sexual transmission is a route of infection only recently documented despite isolating EBOV virus or genome in the semen since 1976. Data on dissemination of EBOV from survivors remain limited and EBOV pathogenesis in humans following sexual transmission is unknown. The in vitro antiviral efficacy of polyphenylene carboxymethylene (PPCM) against EBOV was investigated considering the limited countermeasures available to block infection through sexual intercourse. PPCM is a vaginal topical contraceptive microbicide shown to prevent sexual transmission of HIV, herpes virus, and bacterial infections in several different models. Here we demonstrate its antiviral activity against EBOV. No viral replication was detected in the presence of PPCM in cell culture, including vaginal epithelial (VK2/E6E7) cells. Specifically, PPCM reduced viral attachment to cells by interfering with EBOV glycoprotein, and possibly through binding the cell surface glycosaminoglycan heparan sulfate important in the infection process. EBOV-infected VK2/E6E7 cells were found to secrete type III interferon (IFN), suggesting activation of distinct PRRs or downstream signaling factors from those required for type I and II IFN. The addition of PPCM following cell infection prevented notably the increase of these inflammation markers. Therefore, PPCM could potentially be used as a topical microbicide to reduce transmission by EBOV-positive survivors during sexual intercourse.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.antiviral.2019.104567DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6765433PMC
October 2019

Repurposing Quinacrine against Ebola Virus Infection .

Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2019 09 23;63(9). Epub 2019 Aug 23.

Collaborations Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

Quinacrine hydrochloride is a small-molecule, orally bioavailable drug that has been used clinically as an antimalarial and for many other applications. A machine learning model trained on Ebola virus (EBOV) screening data identified quinacrine as a potent (nanomolar) inhibitor. In the current study, quinacrine 25 mg/kg was shown to protect 70% of mice (statistically significant) from a lethal challenge with mouse-adapted EBOV with once-daily intraperitoneal dosing for 8 days.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AAC.01142-19DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6709481PMC
September 2019

Henipavirus infection of the central nervous system.

Pathog Dis 2019 03;77(2)

Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, Texas, 77555, USA.

Nipah virus (NiV) and Hendra virus are highly pathogenic zoonotic viruses of the genus Henipavirus, family Paramyxoviridae. These viruses were first identified as the causative agents of severe respiratory and encephalitic disease in the 1990s across Australia and Southern Asia with mortality rates reaching up to 75%. While outbreaks of Nipah and Hendra virus infections remain rare and sporadic, there is concern that NiV has pandemic potential. Despite increased attention, little is understood about the neuropathogenesis of henipavirus infection. Neuropathogenesis appears to arise from dual mechanisms of vascular disease and direct parenchymal brain infection, but the relative contributions remain unknown while respiratory disease arises from vasculitis and respiratory epithelial cell infection. This review will address NiV basic clinical disease, pathology and pathogenesis with a particular focus on central nervous system (CNS) infection and address the necessity of a model of relapsed CNS infection. Additionally, the innate immune responses to NiV infection in vitro and in the CNS are reviewed as it is likely linked to any persistent CNS infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/femspd/ftz023DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6974701PMC
March 2019

Filovirus Virulence in Interferon α/β and γ Double Knockout Mice, and Treatment with Favipiravir.

Viruses 2019 02 3;11(2). Epub 2019 Feb 3.

Sealy Institute for Vaccine Science, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Galveston, TX 77555, USA.

The 2014 Ebolavirus outbreak in West Africa highlighted the need for vaccines and therapeutics to prevent and treat filovirus infections. A well-characterized small animal model that is susceptible to wild-type filoviruses would facilitate the screening of anti-filovirus agents. To that end, we characterized knockout mice lacking α/β and γ interferon receptors (IFNAGR KO) as a model for wild-type filovirus infection. Intraperitoneal challenge of IFNAGR KO mice with several known human pathogenic species from the genus Ebolavirus and Marburgvirus, except Bundibugyo ebolavirus and Taï Forest ebolavirus, caused variable mortality rate. Further characterization of the prototype Ebola virus Kikwit isolate infection in this KO mouse model showed 100% lethality down to a dilution equivalent to 1.0 × 10 pfu with all deaths occurring between 7 and 9 days post-challenge. Viral RNA was detectable in serum after challenge with 1.0 × 10² pfu as early as one day after infection. Changes in hematology and serum chemistry became pronounced as the disease progressed and mirrored the histological changes in the spleen and liver that were also consistent with those described for patients with Ebola virus disease. In a proof-of-principle study, treatment of Ebola virus infected IFNAGR KO mice with favipiravir resulted in 83% protection. Taken together, the data suggest that IFNAGR KO mice may be a useful model for early screening of anti-filovirus medical countermeasures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v11020137DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6410141PMC
February 2019

A single-cycle replicable Rift Valley fever phlebovirus vaccine carrying a mutated NSs confers full protection from lethal challenge in mice.

Sci Rep 2018 11 20;8(1):17097. Epub 2018 Nov 20.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, 77555-1019, United States.

Rift Valley fever phlebovirus (RVFV) is a pathogen of Rift Valley fever, which is a mosquito-borne zoonotic disease for domestic livestock and humans in African countries. Currently, no approved vaccine is available for use in non-endemic areas. The MP-12 strain is so far the best live attenuated RVFV vaccine candidate because of its good protective efficacy in animal models. However, there are safety concerns for use of MP-12 in humans. We previously developed a single-cycle replicable MP-12 (scMP-12) which lacks NSs gene and undergoes only a single round of viral replication because of its impaired ability to induce membrane-membrane fusion. In the present study, we generated an scMP-12 mutant (scMP-12-mutNSs) carrying a mutant NSs, which degrades double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase R but does not inhibit host transcription. Immunization of mice with a single dose (10 PFU) of scMP-12-mutNSs elicited RVFV neutralizing antibodies and high titers of anti-N IgG production and fully protected the mice from lethal wild-type RVFV challenge. Immunogenicity and protective efficacy of scMP-12-mutNSs were better than scMP-12, demonstrating that scMP-12-mutNSs is a more efficacious vaccine candidate than scMP-12. Furthermore, our data suggested that RVFV vaccine efficacy can be improved by using this specific NSs mutant.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-35472-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6244155PMC
November 2018

Human neural stem cell-derived neuron/astrocyte co-cultures respond to La Crosse virus infection with proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines.

J Neuroinflammation 2018 Nov 15;15(1):315. Epub 2018 Nov 15.

Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, 77555-0609, USA.

Background: La Crosse virus (LACV) causes pediatric encephalitis in the USA. LACV induces severe inflammation in the central nervous system, but the recruitment of inflammatory cells is poorly understood. A deeper understanding of LACV-induced neural pathology is needed in order to develop treatment options. However, there is a severe limitation of relevant human neuronal cell models of LACV infection.

Methods: We utilized human neural stem cell (hNSC)-derived neuron/astrocyte co-cultures to study LACV infection in disease-relevant primary cells. hNSCs were differentiated into neurons and astrocytes and infected with LACV. To characterize susceptibility and responses to infection, we measured viral titers and levels of viral RNA, performed immunofluorescence analysis to determine the cell types infected, performed apoptosis and cytotoxicity assays, and evaluated cellular responses to infection using qRT-PCR and Bioplex assays.

Results: hNSC-derived neuron/astrocyte co-cultures were susceptible to LACV infection and displayed apoptotic responses as reported in previous in vitro and in vivo studies. Neurons and astrocytes are both targets of LACV infection, with neurons becoming the predominant target later in infection possibly due to astrocytic responses to IFN. Additionally, neuron/astrocyte co-cultures responded to LACV infection with strong proinflammatory cytokine, chemokine, as well as MMP-2, MMP-7, and TIMP-1 responses.

Conclusions: hNSC-derived neuron/astrocyte co-cultures reproduce key aspects of LACV infection in humans and mice and are useful models to study encephalitic viruses. Specifically, we show astrocytes to be susceptible to LACV infection and that neurons and astrocytes are important drivers of the inflammatory responses seen in LACV infection through the production of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12974-018-1356-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6236894PMC
November 2018

Natural History and Pathogenesis of Wild-Type Marburg Virus Infection in STAT2 Knockout Hamsters.

J Infect Dis 2018 11;218(suppl_5):S438-S447

Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.

Marburg virus (MARV; family Filoviridae) causes sporadic outbreaks of Marburg hemorrhagic fever in sub-Saharan Africa with case fatality rates reaching 90%. Wild-type filoviruses, including MARV and the closely related Ebola virus, are unable to suppress the type I interferon response in rodents, and therefore require adaptation of the viruses to cause disease in immunocompetent animals. In the current study, we demonstrate that STAT2 knockout Syrian hamsters are susceptible to infection with different wild-type MARV variants. MARV Musoke causes a robust and systemic infection resulting in lethal disease. Histopathological findings share features similar to those observed in human patients and other animal models of filovirus infection. Reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis of host transcripts shows a dysregulation of the innate immune response. Our results demonstrate that the STAT2 knockout hamster represents a novel small animal model of severe MARV infection and disease without the requirement for virus adaptation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiy457DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6249581PMC
November 2018

Imaging of Murine Whole Lung Fibrosis by Large Scale 3D Microscopy aided by Tissue Optical Clearing.

Sci Rep 2018 09 6;8(1):13348. Epub 2018 Sep 6.

Center for Biomedical Engineering, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, USA.

Pulmonary fibrosis, characterized by excessive collagen deposition in the lungs, comprises a key and debilitating component of chronic lung diseases. Methods are lacking for the direct visualization of fibrillar collagen throughout the whole murine lung, a capability that would aid the understanding of lung fibrosis. We combined an optimized organ-level optical clearing (OC) approach with large-scale, label-free multiphoton microscopy (MPM) and second harmonic generation microscopy (SHGM) to reveal the complete network of fibrillar collagen in whole murine lungs. An innate inflammation-driven model based on repetitive poly(I:C) challenge was evaluated. Following OC, mosaic MPM/SHGM imaging with 3D reconstruction and whole organ quantitative analysis revealed significant differences in collagen deposition between PBS and poly(I:C) treated lungs. Airway specific analysis in whole lung acquisitions revealed significant sub-epithelial fibrosis evident throughout the proximal conductive and distal airways with higher collagen deposition in the poly(I:C) group vs PBS group. This study establishes a new, powerful approach based on OC and MPM/SHGM imaging for 3D analysis of lung fibrosis with macroscopic views of lung pathology based on microscopy and providing a new way to analyze the whole lung while avoiding regional sampling bias.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-31182-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6127188PMC
September 2018

Phosphorylated VP30 of Marburg Virus Is a Repressor of Transcription

J Virol 2018 11 12;92(21). Epub 2018 Oct 12.

Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Galveston, Texas, USA

The filoviruses Marburg virus (MARV) and Ebola virus (EBOV) cause hemorrhagic fever in humans and nonhuman primates, with high case fatality rates. MARV VP30 is known to be phosphorylated and to interact with nucleoprotein (NP), but its role in regulation of viral transcription is disputed. Here, we analyzed phosphorylation of VP30 by mass spectrometry, which resulted in identification of multiple phosphorylated amino acids. Modeling the full-length three-dimensional structure of VP30 and mapping the identified phosphorylation sites showed that all sites lie in disordered regions, mostly in the N-terminal domain of the protein. Minigenome analysis of the identified phosphorylation sites demonstrated that phosphorylation of a cluster of amino acids at positions 46 through 53 inhibits transcription. To test the effect of VP30 phosphorylation on its interaction with other MARV proteins, coimmunoprecipitation analyses were performed. They demonstrated the involvement of VP30 phosphorylation in interaction with two other proteins of the MARV ribonucleoprotein complex, NP and VP35. To identify the role of protein phosphatase 1 (PP1) in the identified effects, a small molecule, 1E7-03, targeting a noncatalytic site of the enzyme that previously was shown to increase EBOV VP30 phosphorylation was used. Treatment of cells with 1E7-03 increased phosphorylation of VP30 at a cluster of phosphorylated amino acids from Ser-46 to Thr-53, reduced transcription of MARV minigenome, enhanced binding to NP and VP35, and dramatically reduced replication of infectious MARV particles. Thus, MARV VP30 phosphorylation can be targeted for development of future antivirals such as PP1-targeting compounds. IMPORTANCE The largest outbreak of MARV occurred in Angola in 2004 to 2005 and had a 90% case fatality rate. There are no approved treatments available for MARV. Development of antivirals as therapeutics requires a fundamental understanding of the viral life cycle. Because of the close similarity of MARV to another member of family, EBOV, it was assumed that the two viruses have similar mechanisms of regulation of transcription and replication. Here, characterization of the role of VP30 and its phosphorylation sites in transcription of the MARV genome demonstrated differences from those of EBOV. The identified phosphorylation sites appeared to inhibit transcription and appeared to be involved in interaction with both NP and VP35 ribonucleoproteins. A small molecule targeting PP1 inhibited transcription of the MARV genome, effectively suppressing replication of the viral particles. These data demonstrate the possibility developing antivirals based on compounds targeting PP1.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.00426-18DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6189487PMC
November 2018

Experimental Infection of Syrian Hamsters With Aerosolized Nipah Virus.

J Infect Dis 2018 10;218(10):1602-1610

Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.

Background: Nipah virus (NiV) is a paramyxovirus (genus Henipavirus) that can cause severe respiratory illness and encephalitis in humans. Transmission occurs through consumption of NiV-contaminated foods, and contact with NiV-infected animals or human body fluids. However, it is unclear whether aerosols derived from aforesaid sources or others also contribute to transmission, and current knowledge on NiV-induced pathogenicity after small-particle aerosol exposure is still limited.

Methods: Infectivity, pathogenicity, and real-time dissemination of aerosolized NiV in Syrian hamsters was evaluated using NiV-Malaysia (NiV-M) and/or its recombinant expressing firefly luciferase (rNiV-FlucNP).

Results: Both viruses had an equivalent pathogenicity in hamsters, which developed respiratory and neurological symptoms of disease, similar to using intranasal route, with no direct correlations to the dose. We showed that virus replication was predominantly initiated in the lower respiratory tract and, although delayed, also intensely in the oronasal cavity and possibly the brain, with gradual increase of signal in these regions until at least day 5-6 postinfection.

Conclusion: Hamsters infected with small-particle aerosolized NiV undergo similar clinical manifestations of the disease as previously described using liquid inoculum, and exhibit histopathological lesions consistent with NiV patient reports. NiV droplets could therefore play a role in transmission by close contact.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiy357DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6173575PMC
October 2018

Favipiravir (T-705) protects against Nipah virus infection in the hamster model.

Sci Rep 2018 05 15;8(1):7604. Epub 2018 May 15.

Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, USA.

Nipah and Hendra viruses are recently emerged bat-borne paramyxoviruses (genus Henipavirus) causing severe encephalitis and respiratory disease in humans with fatality rates ranging from 40-75%. Despite the severe pathogenicity of these viruses and their pandemic potential, no therapeutics or vaccines are currently approved for use in humans. Favipiravir (T-705) is a purine analogue antiviral approved for use in Japan against emerging influenza strains; and several phase 2 and 3 clinical trials are ongoing in the United States and Europe. Favipiravir has demonstrated efficacy against a broad spectrum of RNA viruses, including members of the Paramyxoviridae, Filoviridae, Arenaviridae families, and the Bunyavirales order. We now demonstrate that favipiravir has potent antiviral activity against henipaviruses. In vitro, favipiravir inhibited Nipah and Hendra virus replication and transcription at micromolar concentrations. In the Syrian hamster model, either twice daily oral or once daily subcutaneous administration of favipiravir for 14 days fully protected animals challenged with a lethal dose of Nipah virus. This first successful treatment of henipavirus infection in vivo with a small molecule drug suggests that favipiravir should be further evaluated as an antiviral treatment option for henipavirus infections.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-25780-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954062PMC
May 2018

Distinct virulence of Rift Valley fever phlebovirus strains from different genetic lineages in a mouse model.

PLoS One 2017 21;12(12):e0189250. Epub 2017 Dec 21.

Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, United States of America.

Rift Valley fever phlebovirus (RVFV) causes high rates of abortions and fetal malformations in ruminants, and hemorrhagic fever, encephalitis, or blindness in humans. Viral transmission occurs via mosquito vectors in endemic areas, which necessitates regular vaccination of susceptible livestock animals to prevent the RVF outbreaks. Although ZH501 strain has been used as a challenge strain for past vaccine efficacy studies, further characterization of other RVFV strains is important to optimize ruminant and nonhuman primate RVFV challenge models. This study aimed to characterize the virulence of wild-type RVFV strains belonging to different genetic lineages in outbred CD1 mice. Mice were intraperitoneally infected with 1x103 PFU of wild-type ZH501, Kenya 9800523, Kenya 90058, Saudi Arabia 200010911, OS1, OS7, SA75, Entebbe, or SA51 strains. Among them, mice infected with SA51, Entebbe, or OS7 strain showed rapid dissemination of virus in livers and peracute necrotic hepatitis at 2-3 dpi. Recombinant SA51 (rSA51) and Zinga (rZinga) strains were recovered by reverse genetics, and their virulence was also tested in CD1 mice. The rSA51 strain reproduced peracute RVF disease in mice, whereas the rZinga strain showed a similar virulence with that of rZH501 strain. This study showed that RVFV strains in different genetic lineages display distinct virulence in outbred mice. Importantly, since wild-type RVFV strains contain defective-interfering RNA or various genetic subpopulations during passage from original viral isolations, recombinant RVFV strains generated by reverse genetics will be better suitable for reproducible challenge studies for vaccine development as well as pathological studies.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0189250PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5739399PMC
January 2018

Cross-neutralisation of viruses of the tick-borne encephalitis complex following tick-borne encephalitis vaccination and/or infection.

NPJ Vaccines 2017 13;2. Epub 2017 Mar 13.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-0610 USA.

The tick-borne encephalitis complex contains a number of flaviviruses that share close genetic homology, and are responsible for significant human morbidity and mortality with widespread geographical range. Although many members of this complex have been recognised for decades, licenced human vaccines with broad availability are only available for tick-borne encephalitis virus. While tick-borne encephalitis virus vaccines have been demonstrated to induce significant protective immunity, as determined by virus-neutralisation titres, vaccine breakthrough (clinical infection following complete vaccination), has been described. The aim of this study was to confirm the cross-neutralisation of tick-borne flaviviruses using mouse immune ascitic fluids, and to determine the magnitude of cross-neutralising antibody titres in sera from donors following tick-borne encephalitis vaccination, infection, and vaccine breakthrough. The results demonstrate that there is significant cross-neutralisation of representative members of the tick-borne encephalitis complex following vaccination and/or infection, and that the magnitude of immune responses varies based upon the exposure type. Donor sera successfully neutralised most of the viruses tested, with 85% of vaccinees neutralising Kyasanur forest disease virus and 73% of vaccinees neutralising Alkhumra virus. By contrast, only 63% of vaccinees neutralised Powassan virus, with none of these neutralisation titres exceeding 1:60. Taken together, the data suggest that tick-borne encephalitis virus vaccination may protect against most of the members of the tick-borne encephalitis complex including Kyasanur forest disease virus and Alkhumra virus, but that the neutralisation of Powassan virus following tick-borne encephalitis vaccination is minimal.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41541-017-0009-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5627269PMC
March 2017

Recent advances in the development of antiviral therapeutics for Rift Valley fever virus infection.

Future Virol 2017 Nov 23;12(11):651-665. Epub 2017 Oct 23.

Department of Pathology, The University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555, USA.

Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is a mosquito-borne bunyavirus endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and the etiological agent of Rift Valley fever. Rift Valley fever is a disease of major public health and economic concern, affecting livestock and humans. In ruminants, RVFV infection is characterized by high mortality rates in newborns and near 100% abortion rates in pregnant animals. Infection in humans is typically manifested as a self-limiting febrile illness, but can lead to severe and fatal hepatitis, encephalitis, hemorrhagic fever or retinitis with partial or complete blindness. Currently, there are no specific treatment options available for RVFV infection. This review presents a summary of the therapeutic approaches that have been explored on the treatment of RVFV infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2217/fvl-2017-0060DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5696620PMC
November 2017

Efficacy of Tilorone Dihydrochloride against Ebola Virus Infection.

Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2018 02 25;62(2). Epub 2018 Jan 25.

Bioscience Division, SRI International, Menlo Park, California, USA

Tilorone dihydrochloride (tilorone) is a small-molecule, orally bioavailable drug that is used clinically as an antiviral outside the United States. A machine-learning model trained on anti-Ebola virus (EBOV) screening data previously identified tilorone as a potent EBOV inhibitor, making it a candidate for the treatment of Ebola virus disease (EVD). In the present study, a series of ADMET (absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, toxicity) assays demonstrated the drug has excellent solubility, high Caco-2 permeability, was not a P-glycoprotein substrate, and had no inhibitory activity against five human CYP450 enzymes (3A4, 2D6, 2C19, 2C9, and 1A2). Tilorone was shown to have 52% human plasma protein binding with excellent plasma stability and a mouse liver microsome half-life of 48 min. Dose range-finding studies in mice demonstrated a maximum tolerated single dose of 100 mg/kg of body weight. A pharmacokinetics study in mice at 2- and 10-mg/kg dose levels showed that the drug is rapidly absorbed, has dose-dependent increases in maximum concentration of unbound drug in plasma and areas under the concentration-time curve, and has a half-life of approximately 18 h in both males and females, although the exposure was ∼2.5-fold higher in male mice. Tilorone doses of 25 and 50 mg/kg proved efficacious in protecting 90% of mice from a lethal challenge with mouse-adapted with once-daily intraperitoneal (i.p.) dosing for 8 days. A subsequent study showed that 30 mg/kg/day of tilorone given i.p. starting 2 or 24 h postchallenge and continuing through day 7 postinfection was fully protective, indicating promising activity for the treatment of EVD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AAC.01711-17DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5786809PMC
February 2018

Attenuation and protective efficacy of Rift Valley fever phlebovirus rMP12-GM50 strain.

Vaccine 2017 12 20;35(48 Pt B):6634-6642. Epub 2017 Oct 20.

Department of Pathology, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, United States; The Sealy Center for Vaccine Development, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, United States; The Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, United States. Electronic address:

Rift Valley fever (RVF) is a mosquito-borne zoonotic disease endemic to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula that affects sheep, cattle, goats, camels, and humans. Effective vaccination of susceptible ruminants is important for the prevention of RVF outbreaks. Live-attenuated RVF vaccines are in general highly immunogenic in ruminants, whereas residual virulence might be a concern for vulnerable populations. It is also important for live-attenuated strains to encode unique genetic markers for the differentiation from wild-type RVFV strains. In this study, we aimed to strengthen the attenuation profile of the MP-12 vaccine strain via the introduction of 584 silent mutations. To minimize the impact on protective efficacy, codon usage and codon pair bias were not de-optimized. The resulting rMP12-GM50 strain showed 100% protective efficacy with a single intramuscular dose, raising a 1:853 mean titer of plaque reduction neutralization test. Moreover, outbred mice infected with one of three pathogenic reassortant ZH501 strains, which encoded rMP12-GM50 L-, M-, or S-segments, showed 90%, 50%, or 30% survival, respectively. These results indicate that attenuation of the rMP12-GM50 strain is significantly attenuated via the L-, M-, and S-segments. Recombinant RVFV vaccine strains encoding similar silent mutations will be also useful for the surveillance of reassortant strains derived from vaccine strains in endemic countries.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2017.10.036DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5696010PMC
December 2017