Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is the causative agent of Rift Valley fever (RVF) that affects both livestock and humans. There are neither fully licensed RVF vaccines available for human or animal use, nor effective antiviral drugs approved for human use in the U.S. To identify antiviral compounds effective for RVF, we developed and employed a cell-based high-throughput assay using a recombinant RVFV MP-12 strain, which expresses Renilla luciferase in place of the NSs protein, to screen 727 small compounds purchased from the National Institutes of Health. Twenty-three compounds were initially identified using the screening assay. Two compounds, 6-azauridine and mitoxantrone, also inhibited the replication of the parental MP-12 strain encoding the NSs gene, with limited cytotoxic effects. The respective 50% inhibitory concentrations were 29.07 μM and 79.85 μM when tested with the parental MP-12 strain at a multiplicity of infection of 2. The compounds were further evaluated using the STAT-1 KO mouse model. At one hour post intranasal inoculation of MP-12 strain, mice were intranasally treated with each indicated compound twice daily. Mice treated with either placebo or 6-azauridine displayed severe weight loss and reached the threshold for euthanasia with obvious neurologic symptoms. Onset of disease was, however, delayed in mice treated with either ribavirin or mitoxantrone. The results indicated that mitoxantrone can reduce the severity of diseases in RVFV-infected mice. Our studies build the foundation for the initial screening and efficacy studies of RVF antivirals in a BSL-2 environment, avoiding the higher risks of BSL-3 exposure with wild-type virus.
Keywords: Antiviral; BSL-2 environment; MP-12 vaccine strain; Mitoxantrone; Rift Valley fever virus.
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