Favipiravir (T-705) protects against peracute Rift Valley fever virus infection and reduces delayed-onset neurologic disease observed with ribavirin treatment

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Brian B. Gowen


Rift Valley Fever is a zoonotic, arthropod-borne disease that affects livestock and humans. The etiologic agent, Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV; Bunyaviridae, Phlebovirus) is primarily transmitted through mosquito bites, but can also be transmitted by exposure to infectious aerosols. There are presently no licensed vaccines or therapeutics to prevent or treat severe RVFV infection in humans. We have previously reported on the activity of favipiravir (T-705) against the MP-12 vaccine strain of RVFV and other bunyaviruses in cell culture. In addition, efficacy has also been documented in mouse and hamster models of infection with the related Punta Toro virus. Here, we challenged hamsters with the highly pathogenic ZH501 strain of RVFV to evaluate the activity of favipiravir against lethal infection. Subcutaneous RVFV challenge resulted in substantial serum and tissue viral loads and caused severe disease and mortality within 2-3 days after infection. Oral favipiravir (200 mg/kg/day) prevented mortality in 60% or greater in hamsters challenged with RVFV when administered within 1 or 6 h post-exposure and reduced RVFV titers in serum and tissues relative to the time of treatment initiation. In contrast, although ribavirin (75 mg/kg/day) was effective at protecting animals from the peracute RVFV disease, most ultimately succumbed from a delayed-onset neurologic disease associated with high RVFV burden in the brain observed in moribund animals. When combined, T-705 and ribavirin treatment started 24 h post-infection significantly improved survival outcome and reduced serum and tissue virus titers compared to monotherapy. Our findings demonstrate significant post-RVFV exposure efficacy with favipiravir against both peracute disease and delayed-onset neuroinvasion, and suggest added benefit when combined with ribavirin.

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