Repurposed FDA-Approved drug sorafenib reduces replication of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus and other alphaviruses

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The New World alphaviruses –Venezuelan, eastern, and western equine encephalitis viruses (VEEV, EEEV, and WEEV respectively) – cause a febrile disease that is often lethal in equines and children and leads to long-term neurological sequelae in survivors. Endemic to the Americas, epizootic outbreaks of the three viruses occur sporadically in the continental United States. All three viruses aerosolize readily, replicate to high titers in cell culture, and have low infectious doses. Additionally, there are no FDA-approved vaccines or therapeutics for human use. To address the therapeutic gap, a high throughput assay utilizing a luciferase reporter virus, TC83-luc, was performed to screen a library of commercially available, FDA-approved drugs for antiviral activity. From a group of twenty compounds found to significantly decrease luminescence, the carcinoma therapeutic sorafenib inhibited replication of VEEV-TC83 and TrD in vitro. Additionally, sorafenib inhibited replication of EEEV and two Old World alphaviruses, Sindbis virus and chikungunya virus, at 8 and 16 h post-infection. Sorafenib caused no toxicity in Vero cells, and coupled with a low EC50 value, yielded a selectivity index of >19. Mechanism of actions studies suggest that sorafenib inhibited viral translation through dephosphorylation of several key proteins, including eIF4E and p70S6K, leading to a reduction in viral protein production and overall viral replication.HighlightsA library of FDA-approved compounds was screened for antiviral efficacy against VEEV replication.The cancer therapeutic sorafenib was found to reduce VEEV replication with a selectivity index of >19.Sorafenib likely targets a non-canonical host pathway, impeding translation of viral proteins.Sorafenib reduces viral titers of other alphaviruses, EEEV, SINV, and CHIKV.

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