US researchers have developed a new RNA-based therapy to help the immune system target a mosquito-borne disease caused by the West Nile virus.
Led by Yale University, the team tested the therapy in mice and found that the treatment can help provide long-term protection against the virus, which there are currently no approved vaccines or effective therapies for.
When administered through nose, the small ‘interfering’ RNA molecule decreased the virus in brain, enabling the body’s immune system to destroy it.
The RNA molecule, which is known to target a variety of mosquito-borne flaviviruses, was incorporated in a peptide obtained from the rabies virus to facilitate entry into nerve cells.
A 90% survival rate was found in the treated mice, whose immune systems eliminated the virus throughout their bodies. Based on these findings, the RNA molecule has the potential to offer late-stage therapy and lifelong immunity.
Yale School of Medicine infectious disease associate professor Priti Kumar hopes that the new approach will be a ‘breakthrough strategy’ for West Nile virus treatment once the virus has infected brain and central nervous system.
Kumar said that the therapy blocks pathology in the brain and gives the mice a chance to develop a robust immune response.
The researchers intend to further study the feasibility of this intra-nasal route in humans and hope to extend the application of this therapy to additional mosquito-borne diseases, including St Louis and Japanese encephalitis, and possibly Zika.