Antiviral-resistant herpesvirus infection has become a great concern for immunocompromised patients. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infections are treated with viral thymidine kinase (vTK)-associated drugs such as acyclovir (ACV), and most ACV-resistance (ACV(r)) is due to mutations in the vTK. The standard drug sensitivity test is usually carried out by the plaque reduction assay-based method, which requires over 10 days. To shorten the time required, a novel system was developed by the concept, in which 293T cells transiently expressing recombinant vTK derived from the test sample by transfection of the cells with an expression vector were infected with vTK-deficient and ACV(r) HSV-1 (TAR), and then cultured in a maintenance medium with or without designated concentrations of ACV, ganciclovir (GCV) and brivudine (BVdU). The replication of TAR was strongly inhibited by ACV, GCV and BVdU in 293T cells expressing recombinant vTK of the ACV-sensitive HSV-1, whereas replication was not or slightly inhibited in cells expressing the recombinant vTK of highly resistant or intermediately resistant HSV-1, respectively. An inverse correlation was demonstrated in the 50% effective concentrations (EC(50)s) and inhibitory effects of these compounds on the replication of TAR among ACV(s) and ACV(r) HSV-1 clones. These results indicate that the EC(50)s of the vTK-associated drugs including ACV can be assumed by measuring the inhibitory effect of drugs in 293T cells expressing recombinant vTK of the target virus. The newly developed antiviral sensitivity assay system for HSV-1 makes it possible to estimate EC(50) for vTK-associated drugs, when whole vTK gene is available for use by gene amplification directly from lesion's samples or from virus isolates.
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