25-Hydroxycholesterol Protects Host against Zika Virus Infection and Its Associated Microcephaly in a Mouse Model

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Zika virus (ZIKV) has become a public health threat due to its global transmission and link to severe congenital disorders. The host immune responses to ZIKV infection have not been fully elucidated, and effective therapeutics are not currently available. Herein, we demonstrated that cholesterol-25-hydroxylase (CH25H) was induced in response to ZIKV infection and that its enzymatic product, 25-hydroxycholesterol (25HC), was a critical mediator of host protection against ZIKV. Synthetic 25HC addition inhibited ZIKV infection in vitro by blocking viral entry, and treatment with 25HC reduced viremia and conferred protection against ZIKV in mice and rhesus macaques. 25HC suppressed ZIKV infection and reduced tissue damage in human cortical organoids and the embryonic brain of the ZIKV-induced mouse microcephaly model. Our findings highlight the protective role of CH25H during ZIKV infection and the potential use of 25HC as a natural antiviral agent to combat ZIKV infection and prevent ZIKV-associated outcomes, such as microcephaly.

Zika virus (ZIKV) presents a major challenge to the global health system. Li et al. find that 25-hydroxycholesterol (25HC) inhibits ZIKV infection in monkeys and human cortical organoids and protects mice from microcephaly. 25HC has potential as a first-line antiviral agent to combat a broad array of pathogenic species, including ZIKV.

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