[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Naturally occurring smallpox has been eradicated but remains a considerable threat as a biowarfare/bioterrorist weapon (1). While effective, the smallpox vaccine is currently not recommended for routine use in the general public due to safety concerns (2). Safe and effective countermeasures, particularly those effective after exposure to smallpox, are needed. Currently, SIGA Technologies is developing the small-molecule oral drug, tecovirimat (previously known as ST-246) as a post-exposure therapeutic treatment of orthopoxvirus disease, including smallpox. Tecovirimat has been shown to be efficacious in preventing lethal orthopoxviral disease in numerous animal models (3-5). Furthermore, in clinical trials thus far, the drug appears to be safe, with a good pharmacokinetic profile. In this study, the efficacy of tecovirimat was evaluated in both a pre-lesional and post-lesional setting in non-human primates challenged intravenously with 1x10(8) plaque-forming units of Variola virus (VARV, the causative agent of smallpox), a model for smallpox disease in humans. Following challenge, 50% of placebo-treated controls succumbed to infection while all tecovirimat-treated animals survived regardless of whether treatment was started at 2 or 4 days post-infection. In addition, tecovirimat treatment resulted in dramatic reductions in dermal lesion counts, oropharyngeal virus shedding, and viral DNA circulating in the blood. Although clinical disease was evident in tecovirimat-treated animals, it was generally very mild and appeared to resolve earlier than placebo-treated controls that survived infection. Tecovirimat appears to be an effective smallpox therapeutic in non-human primates, suggesting that it is reasonably likely to provide therapeutic benefit in smallpox-infected humans.
Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Monkeypox virus (MPXV) is endemic within Africa where it sporadically is reported to cause outbreaks of human disease. In 2003, an outbreak of human MPXV occurred in the US after the importation of infected African rodents. Since the eradication of smallpox (caused by an orthopoxvirus (OPXV) related to MPXV) and cessation of routine smallpox vaccination (with the live OPXV vaccinia), there is an increasing population of people susceptible to OPXV diseases. Previous studies have shown that the prairie dog MPXV model is a functional animal model for the study of systemic human OPXV illness. Studies with this model have demonstrated that infected animals are able to transmit the virus to naive animals through multiple routes of exposure causing subsequent infection, but were not able to prove that infected animals could transmit the virus exclusively via the respiratory route. Herein we used the model system to evaluate the hypothesis that the Congo Basin clade of MPXV is more easily transmitted, via respiratory route, than the West African clade. Using a small number of test animals, we show that transmission of viruses from each of the MPXV clade was minimal via respiratory transmission. However, transmissibility of the Congo Basin clade was slightly greater than West African MXPV clade (16.7% and 0% respectively). Based on these findings, respiratory transmission appears to be less efficient than those of previous studies assessing contact as a mechanism of transmission within the prairie dog MPXV animal model.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Volepox virus (VPXV) was first isolated in 1985 from a hind foot scab of an otherwise healthy California vole (Microtus californicus). Subsequent surveys in San Mateo County, CA, revealed serological evidence suggesting that VPXV is endemic to this area, and a second viral isolate from a Pinyon mouse (Peromyscus truei) was collected in 1988. Since then, few studies have been conducted regarding the ecology, pathology, and pathogenicity of VPXV, and its prevalence and role as a potential zoonotic agent remain unknown. To increase our understanding of VPXV disease progression, we challenged 24 California mice (Peromyscus californicus) intranasally with 1.6×10(3) PFU of purified VPXV. By day five post infection (pi) we observed decreased activity level, conjunctivitis, ruffled hair, skin lesions, facial edema, and crusty noses. A mortality rate of 54% was noted by day eight pi. In addition, internal organ necrosis and hemorrhages were observed during necropsy of deceased or euthanized animals. Viral loads in tissues (brain, gonad, kidney, liver, lung, spleen, submandibular lymph node, and adrenal gland), bodily secretions (saliva, and tears), and excretions (urine, and/or feces) were evaluated and compared using real time-PCR and tissue culture. Viral loads measured as high as 2×10(9) PFU/mL in some organs. Our results suggest that VPXV can cause extreme morbidity and mortality within rodent populations sympatric with the known VPXV reservoirs.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Monkeypox virus (MPXV) is considered the most significant human public health threat in the genus Orthopoxvirus since the eradication of variola virus (the causative agent of smallpox). MPXV is a zoonotic agent endemic to forested areas of Central and Western Africa. In 2003, MPXV caused an outbreak in the United States due to the importation of infected African rodents, and subsequent sequential infection of North American prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) and humans. In previous studies, the prairie dog MPXV model has successfully shown to be very useful for understanding MPXV since the model emulates key characteristics of human monkeypox disease. In humans, percutaneous exposure to animals has been documented but the primary method of human-to-human MPXV transmission is postulated to be by respiratory route. Only a few animal model studies of MPXV transmission have been reported. Herein, we show that MPXV infected prairie dogs are able to transmit the virus to naive animals through multiple transmission routes. All secondarily exposed animals were infected with MPXV during the course of the study. Notably, animals secondarily exposed appeared to manifest more severe disease; however, the disease course was very similar to those of experimentally challenged animals including inappetence leading to weight loss, development of lesions, production of orthopoxvirus antibodies and shedding of similar levels or in some instances higher levels of MPXV from the oral cavity. Disease was transmitted via exposure to contaminated bedding, co-housing, or respiratory secretions/nasal mucous (we could not definitively say that transmission occurred via respiratory route exclusively). Future use of the model will allow us to evaluate infection control measures, vaccines and antiviral strategies to decrease disease transmission.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The 2003 monkeypox virus (MPXV) outbreak and subsequent laboratory studies demonstrated that the black-tailed prairie dog is susceptible to MPXV infection and that the ensuing rash illness is similar to human systemic orthopoxvirus (OPXV) infection, including a 7- to 9-day incubation period and, likely, in some cases a respiratory route of infection; these features distinguish this model from others. The need for safe and efficacious vaccines for OPVX in areas where it is endemic or epidemic is important to protect an increasingly OPXV-naïve population. In this study, we tested current and investigational smallpox vaccines for safety, induction of anti-OPXV antibodies, and protection against mortality and morbidity in two MPXV challenges. None of the smallpox vaccines caused illness in this model, and all vaccinated animals showed anti-OPXV antibody responses and neutralizing antibody. We tested vaccine efficacy by challenging the animals with 10 5 or 10 6 PFU Congo Basin MPXV 30 days postvaccination and evaluating morbidity and mortality. Our results demonstrated that vaccination with either Dryvax or Acambis2000 protected the animals from death with no rash illness. Vaccination with IMVAMUNE also protected the animals from death, albeit with (modified) rash illness. Based on the results of this study, we believe prairie dogs offer a novel and potentially useful small animal model for the safety and efficacy testing of smallpox vaccines in pre- and postexposure vaccine testing, which is important for public health planning.
Full-text · Article · Jul 2011 · Journal of Virology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Human monkeypox has never been reported in Ghana, but rodents captured in forested areas of southern Ghana were the source of the monkeypox virus introduced into the United States in 2003. Subsequent to the outbreak in the United States, 204 animals were collected from two commercial trapping sites in Ghana. Animal tissues were examined for the presence of orthopoxvirus (OPXV) DNA using a real-time polymerase chain reaction, and sera were assayed for antibodies against OPXV. Animals from five genera (Cricetomys, Graphiurus, Funiscirus, and Heliosciurus) had antibodies against OPXV, and three genera (Cricetomys, Graphiurus, and Xerus) had evidence of OPXV DNA in tissues. Additionally, 172 persons living near the trapping sites were interviewed regarding risk factors for OPXV exposure, and their sera were analyzed. Fifty-three percent had IgG against OPXV; none had IgM. Our findings suggest that several species of forest-dwelling rodents from Ghana are susceptible to naturally occurring OPXV infection, and that persons living near forests may have low-level or indirect exposure to OPXV-infected animals, possibly resulting in sub-clinical infections.
Full-text · Article · Apr 2010 · The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene