Pentosan polysulfate sodium prevents functional decline in chikungunya infected mice by modulating growth factor signalling and lymphocyte activation

PLoS One. 2021 Sep 7;16(9):e0255125. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0255125. eCollection 2021.


Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an arthropod-borne virus that causes large outbreaks world-wide leaving millions of people with severe and debilitating arthritis. Interestingly, clinical presentation of CHIKV arthritides have many overlapping features with rheumatoid arthritis including cellular and cytokine pathways that lead to disease development and progression. Currently, there are no specific treatments or vaccines available to treat CHIKV infections therefore advocating the need for the development of novel therapeutic strategies to treat CHIKV rheumatic disease. Herein, we provide an in-depth analysis of an efficacious new treatment for CHIKV arthritis with a semi-synthetic sulphated polysaccharide, Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium (PPS). Mice treated with PPS showed significant functional improvement as measured by grip strength and a reduction in hind limb foot swelling. Histological analysis of the affected joint showed local inflammation was reduced as seen by a decreased number of infiltrating immune cells. Additionally, joint cartilage was protected as demonstrated by increased proteoglycan staining. Using a multiplex-immunoassay system, we also showed that at peak disease, PPS treatment led to a systemic reduction of the chemokines CXCL1, CCL2 (MCP-1), CCL7 (MCP-3) and CCL12 (MCP-5) which may be associated with the reduction in cellular infiltrates. Further characterisation of the local effect of PPS in its action to reduce joint and muscle inflammation was performed using NanoString™ technology. Results showed that PPS altered the local expression of key functional genes characterised for their involvement in growth factor signalling and lymphocyte activation. Overall, this study shows that PPS is a promising treatment for alphaviral arthritis by reducing inflammation and protecting joint integrity.

Grant support

P.A.R is the recipient of an Advance Queensland mid-career fellowship. L.J.H. is the recipient of an Australian National Health and Medical Council (NHMRC) Career Development Award (1105760). The study was funded by Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals Ltd. RK and CJMS are paid employees of Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals Ltd and LJH was a paid part-time consultant for Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals Ltd. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section. The funders did not have any role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.