Measles – new inhibitor found effective in large animal model may help control local outbreaks

Vaccination remains the only safe and effective way to protect from measles. Despite world-wide efforts to eradicate the disease, measles outbreaks still occur time and again among the German population due to incomplete vaccine coverage. In 2013 alone, 1775 measles cases in Germany were reported to the Robert Koch-Institut. In this context, an inhibitor that reduces the risk of transmission would be very useful.

Professor R. Plemper of the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Georgia State University, Atlanta, USA, and colleagues have developed an orally bioavailable small molecule inhibitor against measles, which could be administered in tablet form. The active substance, called ERDRP-0159, inhibits the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, which is indispensable for the viral replication.

Until recently, the development of antiviral drugs against measles has been hindered by the lack of a suitable animal model. Towards this, Dr Veronika von Messling, head of the Veterinary Medicine Division at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute, and colleagues have established an animal model, using ferrets infected with canine distemper virus (CDV) a very close relative of measles virus. This project is part of the institute’s involvement in the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF). Usually, an infection with this virus is lethal for ferrets. However, all animals survived if treatment with the inhibitor was started three days after infection and was continued for 14 days. In addition to being well tolerated, the treatment even allowed the development of a robust immune response against the virus, protecting the animals from re-infection.

Original publication: Krumm SA, Yan D, Hovingh E, Evers TJ, Enkirch T, Reddy GP, Sun A, Saindane MT, Arrendale RF, Painter G, Liotta DC, Natchus MG, von Messling V, Plemper RK (2014). An Orally Available, Small-Molecule Polymerase Inhibitor Shows Efficacy Against a Lethal Morbillivirus Infection in a Large Animal Model.
Science Translational Medicine. April 16, 2014

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