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J Immunol. 2006 Apr 15;176(8):4940-9.

CpG oligodeoxynucleotides protect newborn mice from a lethal challenge with the neurotropic Tacaribe arenavirus.

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  • 1Division of Therapeutic Proteins, Office of Biotechnology Products, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Federal Drug Administration, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The innate immune system is key to limiting the early spread of most pathogens and directing the development of Ag-specific immunity. Recently, a number of synthetic molecules that activate the innate immune system by stimulating TLRs have been identified. Among them, synthetic oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) containing unmethylated CpG motifs (CpG ODNs) were shown to activate TLR9-bearing B cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells to induce a strong proinflammatory milieu and a type 1-biased immune response that protects mice from a variety of parasitic, bacterial, and viral infections. Although the protective effect of CpG ODN in adult mice was well established, its effectiveness in neonates, which have lower numbers of dendritic, B, and T cells and tend to favor Th2 responses, was unclear. This study uses the New World arenavirus Tacaribe, a neurotropic pathogen that is lethal in newborn mice, to explore the effectiveness of TLR-mediated innate immune responses. Neonatal BALB/c mice treated with CpG ODN at the time of infection had reduced viral load (p < 0.01) and increased survival (52%, p < 0.001 i.p.; 36%, p < 0.05 intranasally). Protection was achieved in mice treated no later than 3 days postchallenge and appears to be mediated by an increase in Ag-specific Abs (IgG and IgM) and to require inducible NO synthase expression and NO production. To our knowledge, this is the first study assessing the mechanisms by which CpG ODN can protect mice from a neurotropic viral infection.

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