Combinatorial Ribavirin and Interferon Alfacon-1 Therapy of Acute Arenaviral Disease in Hamsters

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

Antiviral Chemistry and Chemotherapy






International Medical Press

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Several arenaviruses endemic to South America (Junin, Machupo, and Guanarito) and Africa (Lassa) are known to cause frequently fatal haemorrhagic fever. With the exception of ribavirin, which has demonstrated efficacy in cases of Lassa fever, there is no other effective therapeutic for the treatment of arenaviral haemorrhagic fever. We have recently reported that consensus interferon-alpha (IFN alfacon-1) can protect hamsters from lethal Pichinde virus (PCV) infection, which serves as a model for acute arenaviral disease in humans. Here we demonstrate highly effective therapy through the combined use of ribavirin with IFN alfacon-1 for the treatment of PCV infection in hamsters. Ribavirin was given orally, twice per day for 7 days, and IFN alfacon-1 was administered intraperitoneally once per day for 10 days. Treatments were initiated 1–5 days post-virus challenge using various dose combinations, many of which were less than optimal when the drugs were given independently. Combining suboptimal doses of ribavirin (5–10 mg/kg/day) with IFN alfacon-1 (5–10 micrograms/kg/day), we were able to demonstrate increased protection from mortality, reduced viral burden and liver disease, and greatly extended survival times as compared to treatments where drugs were administered alone. Our data indicate that combination therapy results in synergistic activity that may slow down the progression of the disease and decrease fatality rates associated with severe arenaviral infections in humans. Further, combination therapy reduces the effective dosage of ribavirin, which would serve to limit its toxicity.