Targeting inside-out phosphatidylserine as a therapeutic strategy for viral diseases

Nat Med. 2008 Dec;14(12):1357-62. doi: 10.1038/nm.1885. Epub 2008 Nov 23.


There is a pressing need for antiviral agents that are effective against multiple classes of viruses. Broad specificity might be achieved by targeting phospholipids that are widely expressed on infected host cells or viral envelopes. We reasoned that events occurring during virus replication (for example, cell activation or preapoptotic changes) would trigger the exposure of normally intracellular anionic phospholipids on the outer surface of virus-infected cells. A chimeric antibody, bavituximab, was used to identify and target the exposed anionic phospholipids. Infection of cells with Pichinde virus (a model for Lassa fever virus, a potential bioterrorism agent) led to the exposure of anionic phospholipids. Bavituximab treatment cured overt disease in guinea pigs lethally infected with Pichinde virus. Direct clearance of infectious virus from the blood and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity of virus-infected cells seemed to be the major antiviral mechanisms. Combination therapy with bavituximab and ribavirin was more effective than either drug alone. Bavituximab also bound to cells infected with multiple other viruses and rescued mice with lethal mouse cytomegalovirus infections. Targeting exposed anionic phospholipids with bavituximab seems to be safe and effective. Our study demonstrates that anionic phospholipids on infected host cells and virions may provide a new target for the generation of antiviral agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / immunology
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arenaviridae Infections / drug therapy
  • Arenaviridae Infections / enzymology
  • Arenaviridae Infections / immunology
  • Cell Line
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Immunotherapy
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism*
  • Pichinde virus / drug effects*
  • Pichinde virus / enzymology*
  • Pichinde virus / immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Phosphatidylserines