Inhibition of highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza virus replication by RNA oligonucleotides targeting NS1 gene.
ABSTRACT H5N1 avian influenza virus (AIV) has caused widespread infections in poultry and wild birds, and has the potential to emerge as a pandemic threat to human. In order to explore novel approaches to inhibiting highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus infection, we have developed short RNA oligonucleotides, specific for conserved regions of the non-structural protein gene (NS1) of AIV. In vitro the hemagglutination (HA) titers in RNA oligonucleotide-treated cells were at least 5-fold lower than that of the control. In vivo, the treatment with three doses of RNA oligonucleotides protected the infected chickens from H5N1 virus-induced death at a rate of up to 87.5%. Plaque assay and real-time PCR analysis showed a significant reduction of the PFU and viral RNA level in the lung tissues of the infected animals treated with the mixed RNA oligonucleotides targeting the NS1 gene. Together, our findings revealed that the RNA oligonucleotides targeting at the AIV NS1 gene could potently inhibit avian H5N1 influenza virus reproduction and present a rationale for the further development of the RNA oligonucleotides as prophylaxis and therapy for highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus infection in humans.