RNA interference inhibits replication of tick-borne encephalitis virusin vitro

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Each year, up to 10,000 cases of infections with the flavivirus tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus that affect the central nervous system are reported in Europe and Asia. Due to the potentially severe adverse effects of post-exposure prophylaxis with TBE virus hyperimmunoglobulin, TBE can currently only be treated symptomatically. An RNA interference (RNAi) approach to inhibit TBE virus replication was therefore developed. In this study we demonstrate for the first time that small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) targeted at the TBE virus genome reduce the quantity of infectious TBE virus particles, TBE virus genome, and TBE virus protein in vitro by up to 85%. The 50% inhibitory dose (DI50) of the shRNA plasmid was only 0.05 μg/ml. As RNAi-based therapeutics for other diseases are already being evaluated in phases II and III clinical trials, it is possible that RNAi could become valuable tool for controlling TBE virus infection.

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