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27 - 01 - 2018

A hepatitis B drug is effective against Zika in human cells and in mice

A drug used to treat hepatitis B has been shown to be effective in protecting human neural cells infected with ZIKA virus in vitro and to prevent in vivo transmission of the virus to fetuses in mice.


The Zika virus epidemics have been associated with a high rate of congenital anomalies. Vaccines are being studied and a drug approved for the treatment of hepatitis B, sofosbuvir, has recently been shown to be effective in vivo and in vitro against this virus.


The researchers wanted to know if this drug could prevent placental transmission and protected fetus nerve cells.


They used human neural progenitor cells (NPCs) that are pluripotent cells that produce neurons and other brain cells. They found that sofosbuvir cured infected cells and restored their antiviral response.


Then they used an immunodeficient mouse model infected with the virus. In the model, sofosbuvir decreased plasma viral load. No trace of the virus could be detected in the fetuses. Sofosbuvir stopped the spread of the virus and transmission to the fetus.



Research is ongoing and looking into the short-term use of this drug, already authorized for other indications, to treat Zika virus infections.