Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) causes substantial economic losses to the swine industry in many countries, and current control strategies are inadequate. Previously, we explored the strategy of using peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PPMOs) to inhibit PRRS virus (PRRSV) replication. PPMOs are nuclease-resistant and single-stranded DNA analogs containing a modified backbone conjugated to a cell-penetrating peptide and can act as antisense agents through steric blockade of complementary messenger RNA. A PPMO (designated 5UP2) targeting highly conserved sequence in the 5'-terminal region of the PRRSV genome was found to produce multi-log10 inhibition of PRRSV replication in cultured cells. To evaluate 5UP2 in vivo, we here administrated the PPMO to 3-week-old piglets via intranasal instillation at 24h before, and 2 and 24h after infection with PRRSV (strain VR2385). Blood samples were collected at 6, 10 and 14 days post-infection (dpi) for detection of PRRSV RNA and antibodies. Necropsy was performed at 14 dpi. Monitoring weight gain in all piglet groups throughout the experiment indicated that PPMO was well tolerated at the doses used. PPMO 5UP2 treatment significantly reduced PRRSV viremia at 6 dpi. On day 14, piglets receiving 5UP2 had significantly less interstitial pneumonia and lower level of anti-PRRSV antibodies than untreated piglets. In alveolar macrophages isolated at the time of necropsy, the expression of antiviral genes in PPMO-treated piglets was elevated in comparison with untreated. This study provides further data indicating that the 5UP2 PPMO can be considered a candidate component for a novel PRRS control strategy.
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