Re-evaluating the effect of Favipiravir treatment on rabies virus infection

Banyard, A. C., Mansfield, K. L., Wu, G., Selden, D., Thorne, L., Birch, C., & Fooks, A. R.

Vaccine (2017).

There is no antiviral treatment available once clinical disease following rabies virus infection has initiated. Considered a neglected tropical disease, >60,000 human rabies deaths are estimated each year despite the availability of pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis for pre-immunisation or administration following a potential exposure before the onset of clinical disease. Such post-exposure treatments include administration of rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) and vaccination at a distant site to prime a humoral immune response. However, current therapeutic options are limited. Regardless there is a need for molecules that target virus infection following the onset of clinical disease where the outcome of infection is invariably fatal. Numerous molecules have been assessed as potential antivirals against rabies virus (RABV) but with little promise. Favipiravir (T-705) is a broad-spectrum RNA polymerase inhibitor, which has been shown to have antiviral activity against a range of RNA viruses including some against RABV. In the present study, the utility of T-705 has been reassessed in vitro as well as in vivo in a murine model using intraperitoneal administration to investigate any immune protective effect of the molecule. In vitro T-705 effectively reduces RABV replication. However, in vivo, following assessment of various applications of the molecule in both pre- and post-exposure scenarios, the effect was limited. T-705 treatment delayed the onset of clinical signs when virus was delivered intramuscularly at a higher dose (106.8 TCID50/ml) and reduced the number of mice that developed clinical signs when virus was delivered at a lower dose (105.8 TCID50/ml) during the observation period. The day at which treatment commenced did not appear to have a statistically significant effect on the results in either experiment. The use of T-705 as a single biological entity may be limited, however, further work is required to assess the synergistic effect of T-705 as a component of a multi-drug therapy for treating human rabies infections.

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