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J Virol. 2002 Nov;76(22):11387-96.

Use of immunostimulatory sequence-containing oligonucleotides as topical therapy for genital herpes simplex virus type 2 infection.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics and the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas 77555, USA.


Synthetic oligonucleotides containing CpG motifs in specific sequence contexts have been shown to induce potent immune responses. We have evaluated mucosal administration of two immunostimulatory sequence (ISS)-containing phosphorothioate-stabilized oligonucleotides for antiherpetic efficacy in animal models. The ISS oligonucleotides, suspended in phosphate-buffered saline, were tested in mouse and guinea pig vaginal models of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection. For comparison, groups of untreated, non-ISS oligonucleotide-treated, and acyclovir-treated animals also were monitored. The results indicated that vaginal epithelial application of ISS (up to 6 h after viral inoculation) with mice lethally challenged with HSV-2 delayed disease onset and reduced the number of animals that developed signs of disease (P = 0.003). ISS application significantly increased survival rates over those of controls (P = 0.0014). The ISS also impacted an established infection in the guinea pig model of HSV-2 disease. A single administration of ISS (21 days after viral inoculation) significantly reduced the frequency and severity of HSV-2 lesions compared to results with non-ISS oligonucleotide-treated and untreated guinea pigs (P < 0.01). HSV-2 is shed from the vaginal cavity of the guinea pig in the absence of lesions, similar to the case with humans. As an additional indication of ISS efficacy, the magnitude of viral shedding also was significantly reduced in ISS-treated animals (P < 0.001). These effects appeared to be immunologically mediated, since ISS had no direct effect on HSV-2 replication in vitro using standard plaque assays. These data suggest that ISS may be useful in the treatment and control of genital herpes in humans.

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