Respiratory viruses represent a major clinical burden. Few vaccines and antivirals are available, and the rapid appearance of resistant viruses is a cause for concern. We have developed a novel approach which exploits defective viruses (defective interfering (DI) or protecting viruses). These are naturally occurring deletion mutants which are replication-deficient and multiply only when coinfection with a genetically compatible infectious virus provides missing function(s) in trans. Interference/protection is believed to result primarily from genome competition and is therefore usually confined to the virus from which the DI genome originated. Using intranasally administered protecting influenza A virus we have successfully protected mice from lethal in vivo infection with influenza A viruses from several different subtypes . Here we report, contrary to expectation, that protecting influenza A virus also protects in vivo against a genetically unrelated respiratory virus, pneumonia virus of mice, a pneumovirus from the family Paramyxoviridae. A single dose that contains 1μg of protecting virus protected against lethal infection. This protection is achieved by stimulating type I interferon and possibly other elements of innate immunity. Protecting virus thus has the potential to protect against all interferon-sensitive respiratory viruses and all influenza A viruses.
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