Development of antiviral drugs that have broad-spectrum activity against a number of viral infections would be of significant benefit. Due to the evolution of resistance to currently licensed antiviral drugs, development of novel anti-influenza drugs is in progress, including Favipiravir (T-705), which is currently in human clinical trials. T-705 displays broad-spectrum in vitro activity against a number of viruses, including Rift Valley Fever virus (RVFV). RVF is an important neglected tropical disease that causes human, agricultural, and economic losses in endemic regions. RVF has the capacity to emerge in new locations and also presents a potential bioterrorism threat. In the current study, the in vivo efficacy of T-705 was evaluated in Wistar-Furth rats infected with the virulent ZH501 strain of RVFV by the aerosol route.
Wistar-Furth rats are highly susceptible to a rapidly lethal disease after parenteral or inhalational exposure to the pathogenic ZH501 strain of RVFV. In the current study, two experiments were performed: a dose-determination study and a delayed-treatment study. In both experiments, all untreated control rats succumbed to disease. Out of 72 total rats infected with RVFV and treated with T-705, only 6 succumbed to disease. The remaining 66 rats (92%) survived lethal infection with no significant weight loss or fever. The 6 treated rats that succumbed survived significantly longer before succumbing to encephalitic disease.
Currently, there are no licensed antiviral drugs for treating RVF. Here, T-705 showed remarkable efficacy in a highly lethal rat model of Rift Valley Fever, even when given up to 48 hours post-infection. This is the first study to show protection of rats infected with the pathogenic ZH501 strain of RVFV. Our data suggest that T-705 has potential to be a broad-spectrum antiviral drug.
Broad-spectrum antiviral drugs are preferred because they have the capacity to treat a range of viral illnesses rather than just one. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of antiviral drugs to treat neglected tropical diseases is difficult to obtain due to ethical and logistical considerations when conducting human clinical trials. Rift Valley Fever (RVF) is an endemic tropical disease that causes human morbidity and mortality, as well as economic damage to the livestock industry. There are no licensed antiviral drugs to treat RVF. In this study, we found that a novel anti-influenza drug, Favipiravir (T-705), is able to prevent lethal RVF in rats, and therefore shows promise as a broad-spectrum antiviral treatment.