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Broad-spectrum inhibition of common respiratory RNA viruses by a pyrimidine synthesis inhibitor with involvement of the host antiviral response.


Our previous screening of 50 240 structurally diverse compounds led to the identification of 39 influenza A virus infection inhibitors (Kao R.Y., Yang D., Lau L.S., Tsui W.H., Hu L. et al. Nat Biotechnol 2010;28:600-605). Further screening of these compounds against common respiratory viruses led to the discovery of compound FA-613. This inhibitor exhibited low micromolar antiviral activity against various influenza A and B virus strains, including the highly pathogenic influenza A strains H5N1 and H7N9, enterovirus A71, respiratory syncytial virus, human rhinovirus A, SARS- and MERS-coronavirus. No significant cellular toxicity was observed at the effective concentrations. Animal studies showed an improved survival rate in BALB/c mice that received intranasal FA-613 treatments against a lethal dose infection of A/HK/415742Md/2009 (H1N1). Further cell-based assays indicated that FA-613 interfer with the de novo pyrimidine biosynthesis pathway by targeting the dihydroorotate dehydrogenase. Surprisingly, FA-613 lost its antiviral potency in the interferon-deficient Vero cell line, while maintaining its inhibitory activity in an interferon-competent cell line which showed elevated expression of host antiviral genes when infected in the presence of FA-613. Further investigation of the specific connection between pyrimidine synthesis inhibition and the induction of host innate immunity might aid clinical development of this type of drug in antiviral therapies. Therefore, in acute cases of respiratory tract infections, when rapid diagnostics of the causative agent are not readily available, an antiviral drug with properties like FA-613 could prove to be very valuable.