Emetine inhibits replication of RNA and DNA viruses without generating drug-resistant virus variants

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At a noncytotoxic concentration, emetine was found to inhibit replication of DNA viruses [buffalopoxvirus (BPXV) and bovine herpesvirus 1 (BHV-1)] as well as RNA viruses [peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV) and Newcastle disease virus (NDV)]. Using the time-of-addition and virus step-specific assays, we showed that emetine treatment resulted in reduced synthesis of viral RNA (PPRV and NDV) and DNA (BPXV and BHV-1) as well as inhibiting viral entry (NDV and BHV-1). In addition, emetine treatment also resulted in decreased synthesis of viral proteins. In a cell free endogenous viral polymerase assay, emetine was found to significantly inhibit replication of NDV, but not BPXV genome, suggesting that besides directly inhibiting specific viral polymerases, emetine may also target other factors essentially required for efficient replication of the viral genome. Moreover, emetine was found to significantly inhibit BPXV-induced pock lesions on chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) along with associated mortality of embryonated chicken eggs. At a lethal dose 50 (LD50) of 126.49 ng/egg and at an effective concentration 50 (EC50) of 3.03 ng/egg, the therapeutic index of the emetine against BPXV was determined to be 41.74. Emetine was also found to significantly delay NDV-induced mortality in chicken embryos associated with reduced viral titers. Further, emetine-resistant mutants were not observed upon long-term (P = 25) sequential passage of BPXV and NDV in cell culture. Collectively, we have extended the effective antiviral activity of emetine against diverse groups of DNA and RNA viruses and propose that emetine could provide significant therapeutic value against some of these viruses without inducing an antiviral drug-resistant phenotype.

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