Aarhus University Seal

Effective Interferon Lambda Treatment Regimen To Control Lethal MERS-CoV Infection in Mice

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Ronald Dijkman, University of Bern
  • ,
  • Abhishek Kumar Verma, University of Iowa
  • ,
  • Muneeswaran Selvaraj, Oklahoma State University
  • ,
  • Roshan Ghimire, Oklahoma State University
  • ,
  • Hans Henrik Gad
  • Rune Hartmann
  • Sunil More, Oklahoma State University
  • ,
  • Stanley Perlman, University of Iowa
  • ,
  • Volker Thiel, University of Bern
  • ,
  • Rudragouda Channappanavar, Oklahoma State University, University of Iowa

Effective broad-spectrum antivirals are critical to prevent and control emerging human coronavirus (hCoV) infections. Despite considerable progress made toward identifying and evaluating several synthetic broad-spectrum antivirals against hCoV infections, a narrow therapeutic window has limited their success. Enhancing the endogenous interferon (IFN) and IFN-stimulated gene (ISG) response is another antiviral strategy that has been known for decades. However, the side effects of pegylated type-I IFNs (IFN-Is) and the proinflammatory response detected after delayed IFN-I therapy have discouraged their clinical use. In contrast to IFN-Is, IFN-l, a dominant IFN at the epithelial surface, has been shown to be less proinflammatory. Consequently, we evaluated the prophylactic and therapeutic efficacy of IFN-l in hCoV-infected airway epithelial cells and mice. Human primary airway epithelial cells treated with a single dose of IFN-I (IFN-a) and IFN-l showed similar ISG expression, whereas cells treated with two doses of IFN-l expressed elevated levels of ISG compared to that of IFN-a-treated cells. Similarly, mice treated with two doses of IFN-l were better protected than mice that received a single dose, and a combination of prophylactic and delayed therapeutic regimens completely protected mice from a lethal Middle East respiratory syndrome CoV (MERS-CoV) infection. A two-dose IFN-l regimen significantly reduced lung viral titers and inflammatory cytokine levels with marked improvement in lung inflammation. Collectively, we identified an effective regimen for IFN-l use and demonstrated the protective efficacy of IFN-l in MERS-CoV-infected mice. IMPORTANCE Effective antiviral agents are urgently required to prevent and treat individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 and other emerging viral infections. The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted our efforts to identify, develop, and evaluate several antiviral agents. However, a narrow therapeutic window has limited the protective efficacy of several broad-spectrum and CoV-specific antivirals. IFN-l is an antiviral agent of interest due to its ability to induce a robust endogenous antiviral state and low levels of inflammation. Here, we evaluated the protective efficacy and effective treatment regimen of IFN-l in mice infected with a lethal dose of MERS-CoV. We show that while prophylactic and early therapeutic IFN-l administration is protective, delayed treatment is detrimental. Notably, a combination of prophylactic and delayed therapeutic administration of IFN-l protected mice from severe MERS. Our results highlight the prophylactic and therapeutic use of IFN-l against lethal hCoV and likely other viral lung infections.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00364-22
JournalJournal of Virology
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.

    Research areas

  • hCoV-229E, IFN lambda, inflammation, interferon lambda, KEYWORDS human coronavirus, MERS-CoV, mouse model, murine model

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats

ID: 278577023