Department of Microbiology and Immunology, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Baltimore VA Medical Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Galveston, Texas
Finding an effective treatment for viral infections that cause encephalitis remains an important problem. A model of human alphavirus infections, Semliki Forest virus, causes lethal encephalitis in weanling mice. Mice are viremic within 24 hr of an intraperitoneal challenge with the equivalent of three 75% lethal doses of Semliki Forest virus. Virus reaches the brain by 48 hr, and mortality results in all mice in 5–7 days. Introduction of virus intracranially accelerates the course of the infection. Neither anti-Semliki Forest virus hyperimmune serum nor the potent interferon inducer poly I:CLC given intraperitoneally are protective when used therapeutically after an intracranial virus infection, but a combination of 1,000 U hyperimmune serum and 80 µg/mouse of poly I:CLC results in a 50% survival rate. This combination treatment of intracranial Semliki Forest virus infection eliminates detectable viremia and reduces virus load in the brain over the course of the infection. These data show that when combined, specific antibody and an interferon inducer can interact synergistically to protect mice from alphavirus infections of the central nervous system even when given after the virus is replicating in the target organ.