The genus Orthopoxvirus contains several species of related viruses, including the causative agent of smallpox (Variola virus). In addition to smallpox, several other members of the genus are capable of causing human infection, including monkeypox, cowpox, and other zoonotic rodent-borne poxviruses. Therefore, a single assay that can accurately identify all orthopoxviruses could provide a valuable tool for rapid broad orthopovirus identification. We have developed a pan-Orthopoxvirus assay for identification of all members of the genus based on four PCR reactions targeting Orthopoxvirus DNA and RNA helicase and polymerase genes. The amplicons are detected using electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS) on the Ibis T5000 system. We demonstrate that the assay can detect and identify a diverse collection of orthopoxviruses, provide sub-species information and characterize viruses from the blood of rabbitpox infected rabbits. The assay is sensitive at the stochastic limit of PCR and detected virus in blood containing approximately six plaque-forming units per milliliter from a rabbitpox virus-infected rabbit.
On May 8, 1980, the World Health Assembly at its 33rd session solemnly declared that the world and all its peoples had won freedom from smallpox and recommended ceasing the vaccination of the population against smallpox. Currently, a larger part of the world population has no immunity not only against smallpox but also against other zoonotic orthopoxvirus infections. Recently, recorded outbreaks of orthopoxvirus diseases not only of domestic animals but also of humans have become more frequent. All this indicates a new situation in the ecology and evolution of zoonotic orthopoxviruses. Analysis of state-of-the-art data on the phylogenetic relationships, ecology, and host range of orthopoxviruses—etiological agents of smallpox (variola virus, VARV), monkeypox (MPXV), cowpox (CPXV), vaccinia (VACV), and camelpox (CMLV)—as well as the patterns of their evolution suggests that a VARV-like virus could emerge in the course of natural evolution of modern zoonotic orthopoxviruses. Thus, there is an insistent need for organization of the international control over the outbreaks of zoonotic orthopoxvirus infections in various countries to provide a rapid response and prevent them from developing into epidemics.
Rapid identification and differentiation of orthopoxviruses by PCR were achieved with primers based on genome sequences encoding the hemagglutinin (HA) protein, an infected-cell membrane antigen that distinguishes orthopoxviruses from other poxvirus genera. The initial identification step used a primer pair of consensus sequences for amplifying an HA DNA fragment from the three known North American orthopoxviruses (raccoonpox, skunkpox, and volepox viruses), and a second pair for amplifying virtually the entire HA open reading frame of the Eurasian-African orthopoxviruses (variola, vaccinia, cowpox, monkeypox, camelpox, ectromelia, and gerbilpox viruses). RsaI digest electropherograms of the amplified DNAs of the former subgroup provided species differentiation, and TaqI digests differentiated the Eurasian-African orthopoxviruses, including vaccinia virus from the vaccinia virus subspecies buffalopox virus. Endonuclease HhaI digest patterns distinguished smallpox variola major viruses from alastrim variola minor viruses. For the Eurasian-African orthopoxviruses, a confirmatory step that used a set of higher-sequence-homology primers was developed to provide sensitivity to discern individual virus HA DNAs from cross-contaminated orthopoxvirus DNA samples; TaqI and HhaI digestions of the individual amplified HA DNAs confirmed virus identity. Finally, a set of primers and modified PCR conditions were developed on the basis of base sequence differences within the HA genes of the 10 species, which enabled production of a single DNA fragment of a particular size that indicated the specific species.
Concerns about infections caused by orthopoxviruses, such as variola and monkeypox viruses, drive ongoing efforts to develop novel smallpox vaccines that are both effective and safe to use in diverse populations. A subunit smallpox vaccine comprising vaccinia virus membrane proteins A33, B5, L1, A27 and aluminum hydroxide (alum) ± CpG were administered to non-human primates, which were subsequently challenged with a lethal intravenous dose of monkeypox virus. Alum-adjuvanted vaccines provided only partial protection but the addition of CpG provided full protection that was associated with a more homogeneous antibody response and stronger IgG1 responses. These results indicate that it is feasible to develop a highly effective subunit vaccine against orthopoxvirus infections as a safer alternative to live vaccinia virus vaccination.
smallpox; monkeypox; vaccinia virus; subunit vaccine; CpG; aluminum hydroxide; baculovirus expressed proteins
We developed a highly sensitive and specific assay for the rapid detection of smallpox virus DNA on both the Smart Cycler and LightCycler platforms. The assay is based on TaqMan chemistry with the orthopoxvirus hemagglutinin gene used as the target sequence. With genomic DNA purified from variola virus Bangladesh 1975, the limit of detection was estimated to be approximately 25 copies on both machines. The assay was evaluated in a blinded study with 322 coded samples that included genomic DNA from 48 different isolates of variola virus; 25 different strains and isolates of camelpox, cowpox, ectromelia, gerbilpox, herpes, monkeypox, myxoma, rabbitpox, raccoonpox, skunkpox, vaccinia, and varicella-zoster viruses; and two rickettsial species at concentrations mostly ranging from 100 fg/μl to 1 ng/μl. Contained within those 322 samples were variola virus DNA, obtained from purified viral preparations, at concentrations of 1 fg/μl to 1 ng/μl. On the Smart Cycler platform, 2 samples with false-positive results were detected among the 116 samples not containing variola virus tested; i.e., the overall specificity of the assay was 98.3%. On the LightCycler platform, five samples with false-positive results were detected (overall specificity, 95.7%). Of the 206 samples that contained variola virus DNA ranging in concentrations from 100 fg/μl to 1 ng/μl, 8 samples were considered negative on the Smart Cycler platform and 1 sample was considered negative on the LightCycler platform. Thus, the clinical sensitivities were 96.1% for the Smart Cycler instrument and 99.5% for the LightCycler instrument. The vast majority of these samples were derived from virus-infected cell cultures and variola virus-infected tissues; thus, the DNA material contained both viral DNA and cellular DNA. Of the 43 samples that contained purified variola virus DNA ranging in concentration from 1 fg/μl to 1 ng/μl, the assay correctly detected the virus in all 43 samples on both the Smart Cycler and the LightCycler platforms. The assay may be useful for the early detection of smallpox virus infections should such infections occur as a result of a deliberate or an accidental recurrence.
We recently developed a set of seven resequencing GeneChips for the rapid sequencing of Variola virus strains in the WHO Repository of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In this study, we attempted to hybridize these GeneChips with some known non-Variola orthopoxvirus isolates, including monkeypox, cowpox, and vaccinia viruses, for rapid detection.
A restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) assay was developed to identify and differentiate Old World, African-Eurasian orthopoxviruses (OPV): variola, vaccinia, cowpox, monkeypox, camelpox, ectromelia, and taterapox viruses. The test uses amplicons produced from virus genome DNA by PCR with a consensus primer pair designed from sequences determined for the cytokine response modifier B (crmB) gene of 43 different OPV strains of known taxonomic origin. The primer pair amplified a single specific product from each of the 115 OPV samples tested. Size-specific amplicons identified and differentiated ectromelia and vaccinia virus strains, which contain a truncated crmB gene, and enabled their differentiation from other OPV species. Restriction digests of amplified products allowed the identification and differentiation of variola, monkeypox, camelpox, vaccinia, and cowpox virus species and strains.
Animal-borne orthopoxviruses, like monkeypox, vaccinia and the closely related cowpox virus, are all capable of causing zoonotic infections in humans, representing a potential threat to human health. The disease caused by each virus differs in terms of symptoms and severity, but little is yet know about the reasons for these varying phenotypes. They may be explained by the unique repertoire of immune and host cell modulating factors encoded by each virus. In this study, we analysed the specific modulation of the host cell’s gene expression profile by cowpox, monkeypox and vaccinia virus infection. We aimed to identify mechanisms that are either common to orthopoxvirus infection or specific to certain orthopoxvirus species, allowing a more detailed description of differences in virus-host cell interactions between individual orthopoxviruses. To this end, we analysed changes in host cell gene expression of HeLa cells in response to infection with cowpox, monkeypox and vaccinia virus, using whole-genome gene expression microarrays, and compared these to each other and to non-infected cells.
Despite a dominating non-responsiveness of cellular transcription towards orthopoxvirus infection, we could identify several clusters of infection-modulated genes. These clusters are either commonly regulated by orthopoxvirus infection or are uniquely regulated by infection with a specific orthopoxvirus, with major differences being observed in immune response genes. Most noticeable was an induction of genes involved in leukocyte migration and activation in cowpox and monkeypox virus-infected cells, which was not observed following vaccinia virus infection.
Despite their close genetic relationship, the expression profiles induced by infection with different orthopoxviruses vary significantly. It may be speculated that these differences at the cellular level contribute to the individual characteristics of cowpox, monkeypox and vaccinia virus infections in certain host species.
Orthopoxvirus; Cowpox virus; Vaccinia virus; Monkeypox virus; Microarray; Gene expression; Host cell response
ST-246 is a low-molecular-weight compound (molecular weight = 376), that is potent (concentration that inhibited virus replication by 50% = 0.010 μM), selective (concentration of compound that inhibited cell viability by 50% = >40 μM), and active against multiple orthopoxviruses, including vaccinia, monkeypox, camelpox, cowpox, ectromelia (mousepox), and variola viruses. Cowpox virus variants selected in cell culture for resistance to ST-246 were found to have a single amino acid change in the V061 gene. Reengineering this change back into the wild-type cowpox virus genome conferred resistance to ST-246, suggesting that V061 is the target of ST-246 antiviral activity. The cowpox virus V061 gene is homologous to vaccinia virus F13L, which encodes a major envelope protein (p37) required for production of extracellular virus. In cell culture, ST-246 inhibited plaque formation and virus-induced cytopathic effects. In single-cycle growth assays, ST-246 reduced extracellular virus formation by 10 fold relative to untreated controls, while having little effect on the production of intracellular virus. In vivo oral administration of ST-246 protected BALB/c mice from lethal infection, following intranasal inoculation with 10× 50% lethal dose (LD50) of vaccinia virus strain IHD-J. ST-246-treated mice that survived infection acquired protective immunity and were resistant to subsequent challenge with a lethal dose (10× LD50) of vaccinia virus. Orally administered ST-246 also protected A/NCr mice from lethal infection, following intranasal inoculation with 40,000× LD50 of ectromelia virus. Infectious virus titers at day 8 postinfection in liver, spleen, and lung from ST-246-treated animals were below the limits of detection (<10 PFU/ml). In contrast, mean virus titers in liver, spleen, and lung tissues from placebo-treated mice were 6.2 × 107, 5.2 × 107, and 1.8 × 105 PFU/ml, respectively. Finally, oral administration of ST-246 inhibited vaccinia virus-induced tail lesions in Naval Medical Research Institute mice inoculated via the tail vein. Taken together, these results validate F13L as an antiviral target and demonstrate that an inhibitor of extracellular virus formation can protect mice from orthopoxvirus-induced disease.
Less than 200 years after its introduction, widespread use of vaccinia virus (VACV) as a smallpox vaccine has eradicated variola virus. Along with the remarkable success of the vaccination program, frequent and sometimes severe adverse reactions to VACV were encountered. After eradication, VACV has been reserved for select populations who might be at significant risk for orthopoxvirus infections. Events over the past decade have renewed concerns over the potential use of variola virus as a biological weapon. Accordingly, interest in VACV and attenuated derivatives has increased, both as vaccines against smallpox and as vectors for other vaccines. This article will focus on new developments in the field of orthopoxvirus immunization and will highlight recent advances in the use of vaccinia viruses as vectors for infectious diseases and malignancies.
ACAM2000; clinical trials; Dryvax; IMVAMUNE; MVA; orthopoxviruses; smallpox; vaccine; vaccinia
A screening assay for real-time LightCycler (Roche Applied Science, Mannheim, Germany) PCR identification of smallpox virus DNA was developed and compiled in a kit system under good manufacturing practice conditions with standardized reagents. In search of a sequence region unique to smallpox virus, the nucleotide sequence of the 14-kDa fusion protein gene of each of 14 variola virus isolates of the Russian World Health Organization smallpox virus repository was determined and compared to published sequences. PCR primers were designed to detect all Eurasian-African species of the genus Orthopoxvirus. A single nucleotide mismatch resulting in a unique amino acid substitution in smallpox virus was used to design a hybridization probe pair with a specific sensor probe that allows reliable differentiation of smallpox virus from other orthopoxviruses by melting-curve analysis. The applicability was demonstrated by successful amplification of 120 strains belonging to the orthopoxvirus species variola, vaccinia, camelpox, mousepox, cowpox, and monkeypox virus. The melting temperatures (Tms) determined for 46 strains of variola virus (Tms, 55.9 to 57.8°C) differed significantly (P = 0.005) from those obtained for 11 strains of vaccinia virus (Tms, 61.7 to 62.7°C), 15 strains of monkeypox virus (Tms, 61.9 to 62.2°C), 40 strains of cowpox virus (Tms, 61.3 to 63.7°C), 8 strains of mousepox virus (Tm, 61.9°C), and 8 strains of camelpox virus (Tms, 64.0 to 65.0°C). As most of the smallpox virus samples were derived from infected cell cultures and tissues, smallpox virus DNA could be detected in a background of human DNA. By applying probit regression analysis, the analytical sensitivity was determined to be 4 copies of smallpox virus target DNA per sample. The DNAs of several human herpesviruses as well as poxviruses other than orthopoxviruses were not detected by this method. The assay proved to be a reliable technique for the detection of orthopoxviruses, with the advantage that it can simultaneously identify variola virus.
The absence of herd immunity to orthopoxviruses and the concern that variola or monkeypox viruses could be used for bioterroristic activities has stimulated the development of therapeutics and safer prophylactics. One major limitation in this process is the lack of accessible human orthopoxvirus infections for clinical efficacy trials; however, drug licensure can be based on orthopoxvirus animal challenge models as described in the “Animal Efficacy Rule”. One such challenge model uses ectromelia virus, an orthopoxvirus, whose natural host is the mouse and is the etiological agent of mousepox. The genetic similarity of ectromelia virus to variola and monkeypox viruses, the common features of the resulting disease, and the convenience of the mouse as a laboratory animal underscores its utility in the study of orthopoxvirus pathogenesis and in the development of therapeutics and prophylactics. In this review we outline how mousepox has been used as a model for smallpox. We also discuss mousepox in the context of mouse strain, route of infection, infectious dose, disease progression, and recovery from infection.
ectromelia; variola; monkeypox; animal model; mousepox; infection route; antiviral; CMX001; ST-246
Although smallpox was eradicated as a global illness more than 30 years ago, variola virus and other related pathogenic poxviruses, such as monkeypox, remain potential bioterrorist weapons or could re-emerge as natural infections. Poxviruses express virulence factors that down-modulate the host’s immune system. We previously compared functional profiles of the poxviral complement inhibitors of smallpox, vaccinia, and monkeypox known as SPICE, VCP (or VICE), and MOPICE, respectively. SPICE was the most potent regulator of human complement and attached to cells via glycosaminoglycans. The major goals of the present study were to further characterize the complement regulatory and heparin binding sites of SPICE and to evaluate a mAb that abrogates its function. Using substitution mutagenesis, we established that (1) elimination of the three heparin binding sites severely decreases but does not eliminate glycosaminoglycan binding, (2) there is a hierarchy of activity for heparin binding among the three sites, and (3) complement regulatory sites overlap with each of the three heparin binding motifs. By creating chimeras with interchanges of SPICE and VCP residues, a combination of two SPICE amino acids (H77 plus K120) enhances VCP activity ~200-fold. Also, SPICE residue L131 is critical for both complement regulatory function and accounts for the electrophoretic differences between SPICE and VCP. An evolutionary history for these structure-function adaptations of SPICE is proposed. Finally, we identified and characterized a mAb that inhibits the complement regulatory activity of SPICE, MOPICE, and VCP and thus could be used as a therapeutic agent.
Orthopoxviruses, including variola and monkeypox, pose risks to human health through natural transmission or potential bioterrorist activities. Since vaccination has not recently been utilized for control of these infections, there is renewed effort in the development of antiviral agents not only for postexposure smallpox therapy but also for treatment of adverse reactions following vaccination. The objectives of this study were to expand on the results of others that cidofovir (CDV) is effective in mice inoculated with cowpox virus (CV) or vaccinia virus (VV) and to document the efficacy of single and interval dosing beginning prior to or after infection, particularly including evaluations using suboptimal doses of CDV. We utilized BALB/c or SCID mice inoculated with CV or VV as models for systemic poxvirus infections. BALB/c mice were inoculated intranasally with CV or VV and treated with CDV prior to or after virus inoculation. CDV, at concentrations as low as 0.7 to 6.7 mg/kg of body weight/day for 5 days, conferred significant protection when treatment was initiated as late as 72 to 96 h postinfection. A single-dose pretreatment or posttreatment with CDV at 3 to 100 mg/kg was effective when given as early as 5 days prior to infection or as late as 3 days after infection with either VV or CV. Interval treatments given every third day beginning 72 h postinfection using 6.7 or 2 mg of CDV/kg also proved effective against CV infections. When SCID mice were inoculated intraperitoneally with CV or VV and treated for 7 to 30 days with CDV, all the mice eventually died during or after cessation of treatment; however, significant delays in time to death and reduction of virus replication in organs occurred in most treated groups, and no resistance to CDV was detected.
Among the members of the genus Orthopoxvirus (OPXV), vaccinia virus (VACV), the type species of the genus is a double-stranded DNA virus, belongs to the subfamily Chordopoxvirinae of the family Poxviridae. The causative agents of smallpox, VACV and Variola virus are mutually immunogenic and the type species of Orthopoxvirus, cause only mild complications in humans. Therefore, the VACV was used as a smallpox vaccine world over under mass immunization program promoted by World Health Organization, which lead to the variola eradication globally in 1979. Since then, no vaccination of human population has been carried out; however, vaccination has been continued for at-risk laboratory workers, military personnel and others working with recombinant VACV or other non-variola orthopoxviruses (OPXVs). There has now been a surge in the development of safer smallpox vaccines and understanding of the biology of VACV necessitating re-use of this vaccine in most vulnerable population, because of rise in bioterrorist threats globally. Also, globally there has been the emergence and re-emergence of vaccinia-like viruses (VLVs) in Brazil, buffalopox viruses in Egypt, Indonesia, India and its neighbouring countries like Nepal, Pakistan. Bioterrorism as well as emergence and re-emergence of the VLVs constitute a concern as 50 % of the population globally (40 % in USA) <30 years are unvaccinated and most vulnerable for smallpox reemergence. Thus, the search for new generation safer smallpox vaccine entails review of biology of VLVs in the smallpox-free world. In this review, we present occurrence of VLVs in the world with exhaustive discussion particularly on the emergence and re-emergence of these viruses in India and Brazil where VLVs are sufficiently studied.
Vaccinia virus; Vaccinia-like viruses; Buffalopox; Emergence and reemergence; Zoonosis
In 1796, Edward Jenner introduced the concept of vaccination with cowpox virus, an Orthopoxvirus within the family Poxviridae that elicits cross protective immunity against related orthopoxviruses, including smallpox virus (variola virus). Over time, vaccinia virus (VACV) replaced cowpox virus as the smallpox vaccine, and vaccination efforts eventually led to the successful global eradication of smallpox in 1979. VACV has many characteristics that make it an excellent vaccine and that were crucial for the successful eradication of smallpox, including (1) its exceptional thermal stability (a very important but uncommon characteristic in live vaccines), (2) its ability to elicit strong humoral and cell-mediated immune responses, (3) the fact that it is easy to propagate, and (4) that it is not oncogenic, given that VACV replication occurs exclusively within the host cell cytoplasm and there is no evidence that the viral genome integrates into the host genome. Since the eradication of smallpox, VACV has experienced a renaissance of interest as a viral vector for the development of recombinant vaccines, immunotherapies, and oncolytic therapies, as well as the development of next-generation smallpox vaccines. This revival is mainly due to the successful use and extensive characterization of VACV as a vaccine during the smallpox eradication campaign, along with the ability to genetically manipulate its large dsDNA genome while retaining infectivity and immunogenicity, its wide mammalian host range, and its natural tropism for tumor cells that allows its use as an oncolytic vector. This review provides an overview of new uses of VACV that are currently being explored for the development of vaccines, immunotherapeutics, and oncolytic virotherapies.
cancer immunotherapy; oncolytic cancer therapy; smallpox; vaccines; vaccinia virus; viral vectors
Smallpox, once a devastating disease caused by Variola virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus, was eradicated in 1980. However, the importance of variola virus infections has been stressed widely in the last few years, particularly following recent social events in the world. Today, variola virus is considered to be one of the most significant agents with potential use as a biological weapon. In this study we developed an internally controlled real-time PCR assay for rapid detection and simultaneous differentiation of variola virus from other orthopoxviruses. The assay is based on TaqMan 3′-minor groove binder (MGB) chemistry and uses generic primers, designed in highly conserved genomic regions of the crmB gene, and three TaqMan MGB probes designed to identify orthopoxviruses, variola virus, and an internal control. The results obtained suggest that the assay is rapid, sensitive, specific, and suitable for the generic detection of orthopoxviruses and the identification of variola virus and avoids false-negative results in a single reaction tube.
Zoonotic infections caused by several orthopoxviruses (OPV) like monkeypox virus or vaccinia virus have a significant impact on human health. In Europe, the number of diagnosed infections with cowpox viruses (CPXV) is increasing in animals as well as in humans. CPXV used to be enzootic in cattle; however, such infections were not being diagnosed over the last decades. Instead, individual cases of cowpox are being found in cats or exotic zoo animals that transmit the infection to humans. Both animals and humans reveal local exanthema on arms and legs or on the face. Although cowpox is generally regarded as a self-limiting disease, immunosuppressed patients can develop a lethal systemic disease resembling smallpox. To date, only limited information on the complex and, compared to other OPV, sparsely conserved CPXV genomes is available. Since CPXV displays the widest host range of all OPV known, it seems important to comprehend the genetic repertoire of CPXV which in turn may help elucidate specific mechanisms of CPXV pathogenesis and origin. Therefore, 22 genomes of independent CPXV strains from clinical cases, involving ten humans, four rats, two cats, two jaguarundis, one beaver, one elephant, one marah and one mongoose, were sequenced by using massive parallel pyrosequencing. The extensive phylogenetic analysis showed that the CPXV strains sequenced clearly cluster into several distinct clades, some of which are closely related to Vaccinia viruses while others represent different clades in a CPXV cluster. Particularly one CPXV clade is more closely related to Camelpox virus, Taterapox virus and Variola virus than to any other known OPV. These results support and extend recent data from other groups who postulate that CPXV does not form a monophyletic clade and should be divided into multiple lineages.
Vaccinia virus is the prototypical orthopoxvirus of Poxviridae, a family of viruses that includes the human pathogens Variola (smallpox) and Monkeypox. Core viral functions are conserved among orthopoxviruses, and consequently Vaccinia is routinely used to study poxvirus biology and screen for novel antiviral compounds. Here we describe the development of a series of fluorescent protein-based reporter Vaccinia viruses that provide unprecedented resolution for tracking viral function. The reporter viruses are divided into two sets: 1) single reporter viruses that utilize temporally regulated early, intermediate, or late viral promoters; and 2) multi-reporter viruses that utilize multiple temporally regulated promoters. Promoter and reporter combinations were chosen that yielded high signal-to-background for stage-specific viral outputs. We provide examples for how these viruses can be used in the rapid and accurate monitoring of Vaccinia function and drug action.
With the global eradication of smallpox in 1979, the causative agent, variola, no longer circulates in human populations. Other human poxvirus infections, such as those caused by vaccinia, cowpox virus and molluscum, are usually relatively benign in immunocompetent individuals. Conversely, monkeypox virus infections cause high levels of mortality and morbidity in Africa and the virus appears to be increasing its host range, virulence and demographic environs. Furthermore, there are concerns that clandestine stocks of variola virus exist. The re-introduction of aerosolized variola (or perhaps monkeypox virus) into human populations would result in high levels of morbidity and mortality. The attractiveness of variola as a bioweapon and, to a certain extent, monkeypox virus is its inherent ability to spread from person-to-person. The threat posed by the intentional release of variola or monkeypox virus, or a monkeypox virus epizoonosis, will require the capacity to rapidly diagnose the disease and to intervene with antivirals, as intervention is likely to take place during the initial diagnosis, approximately 10-15 days postinfection. Preimmunization of ‘at-risk populations’ with vaccines will likely not be practical, and the therapeutic use of vaccines has been shown to be ineffective after 4 days of infection with variola. However, a combination of vaccine and antivirals for those infected may be an option. Here we describe historical, current and future therapies to treat orthopoxvirus diseases.
acyclic nucleoside phosphonates; animal model; antiviral; CMX001; monkeypox; orthopoxvirus; smallpox; ST-246; vaccinia
Since the eradication of smallpox and the cessation of routine childhood vaccination for smallpox, the proportion of the world's population susceptible to infection with orthopoxviruses, such as variola virus (the causative agent of smallpox) and monkeypox virus, has grown substantially. In the United States, the only vaccines for smallpox licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been live virus vaccines. Unfortunately, a substantial number of people cannot receive live virus vaccines due to contraindications. Furthermore, no antiviral drugs have been fully approved by the FDA for the prevention or treatment of orthopoxvirus infection. Here, we show the inhibitory effect of one new antiviral compound, ST-246, on the in vitro growth properties of six variola virus strains and seven monkeypox virus strains. We performed multiple assays to monitor the cytopathic effect and to evaluate the reduction of viral progeny production and release in the presence of the compound. ST-246 had 50% effective concentrations of ≤0.067 μM against variola virus and <0.04 μM against monkeypox virus. In a dose-dependent manner, plaque size and comet tail formation were markedly reduced in the presence of the drug at low, noncytotoxic concentrations between 0.015 and 0.05 μM. Our in vitro phenotype data suggest that ST-246 inhibits variola and monkeypox viruses similarly by reducing the production and release of enveloped orthopoxvirus and support the development of ST-246 as an antiviral therapeutic compound for the treatment of severe systemic orthopoxvirus infections.
The EB peptide is a 20-mer that was previously shown to have broad spectrum in vitro activity against several unrelated viruses, including highly pathogenic avian influenza, herpes simplex virus type I, and vaccinia, the prototypic orthopoxvirus. To expand on this work, we evaluated EB for in vitro activity against the zoonotic orthopoxviruses cowpox and monkeypox and for in vivo activity in mice against vaccinia and cowpox.
In yield reduction assays, EB had an EC50 of 26.7 μM against cowpox and 4.4 μM against monkeypox. The EC50 for plaque reduction was 26.3 μM against cowpox and 48.6 μM against monkeypox. A scrambled peptide had no inhibitory activity against either virus. EB inhibited cowpox in vitro by disrupting virus entry, as evidenced by a reduction of the release of virus cores into the cytoplasm. Monkeypox was also inhibited in vitro by EB, but at the attachment stage of infection. EB showed protective activity in mice infected intranasally with vaccinia when co-administered with the virus, but had no effect when administered prophylactically one day prior to infection or therapeutically one day post-infection. EB had no in vivo activity against cowpox in mice.
While EB did demonstrate some in vivo efficacy against vaccinia in mice, the limited conditions under which it was effective against vaccinia and lack of activity against cowpox suggest EB may be more useful for studying orthopoxvirus entry and attachment in vitro than as a therapeutic against orthopoxviruses in vivo.
EB peptide; vaccinia; cowpox; monkeypox; poxvirus entry; poxvirus attachment
In the nineteenth century, smallpox ravaged through the United States and Canada. At this time, a botanical preparation, derived from the carnivorous plant Sarracenia purpurea, was proclaimed as being a successful therapy for smallpox infections. The work described characterizes the antipoxvirus activity associated with this botanical extract against vaccinia virus, monkeypox virus and variola virus, the causative agent of smallpox. Our work demonstrates the in vitro characterization of Sarracenia purpurea as the first effective inhibitor of poxvirus replication at the level of early viral transcription. With the renewed threat of poxvirus-related infections, our results indicate Sarracenia purpurea may act as another defensive measure against Orthopoxvirus infections.
Because of concerns about zoonotic transmission of monkeypox to humans and the bioterrorism threat posed by Orthopoxviruses, there is renewed interest in probing cellular and molecular mechanisms of host defense to these pathogens. In particular, it is essential to understand viral-host interactions in the respiratory tract, which is the route of infection for smallpox and a likely route of transmission for monkeypox. In this study, we analyze functions of alveolar macrophages in poxvirus infection, using a recombinant vaccinia virus expressing firefly luciferase to quantify infection in mice and cell culture. Depletion of alveolar macrophages with liposomal clodronate worsens the overall severity of infection in mice, including greater replication and systemic dissemination of vaccinia as determined by bioluminescence imaging. Absence of alveolar macrophages increases total numbers of granulocytes and granulocytes/monocyte progenitor cells in the lung during vaccinia infection, indicating that protective effects of alveolar macrophages may be mediated in part by reducing the host inflammation. Alveolar macrophages also limit vaccinia infection in respiratory epithelium, as shown by a co-culture model of cell lines derived from alveolar macrophages and lung epithelium. Collectively, these data demonstrate that alveolar macrophages are key determinants of host defense against local and systemic infection with poxviruses.
The Orthopoxvirus genus contains numerous virus species that are capable of causing disease in humans, including variola virus (the etiological agent of smallpox), monkeypox virus, cowpox virus, and vaccinia virus (the prototypical member of the genus). Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease that is endemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is characterized by systemic lesion development and prominent lymphadenopathy. Like variola virus, monkeypox virus is a high priority pathogen for therapeutic development due to its potential to cause serious disease with significant health impacts after zoonotic, accidental, or deliberate introduction into a naïve population.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the prophylactic and therapeutic potential of interferon-β (IFN-β) for use against monkeypox virus. We found that treatment with human IFN-β results in a significant decrease in monkeypox virus production and spread in vitro. IFN-β substantially inhibited monkeypox virus when introduced 6-8 h post infection, revealing its potential for use as a therapeutic. IFN-β induced the expression of the antiviral protein MxA in infected cells, and constitutive expression of MxA was shown to inhibit monkeypox virus infection.
Our results demonstrate the successful inhibition of monkeypox virus using human IFN-β and suggest that IFN-β could potentially serve as a novel safe therapeutic for human monkeypox disease.
Orthopoxvirus; Monkeypox virus; Type I interferon; IFN-β; MxA