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J Virol. 2011 Jul;85(14):7246-55. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00614-11. Epub 2011 May 11.

Ribavirin can be mutagenic for arenaviruses.

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Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CSIC-UAM), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Campus de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


Arenaviruses include several important human pathogens, and there are very limited options of preventive or therapeutic interventions to combat these viruses. An off-label use of the purine nucleoside analogue ribavirin (1-β-d-ribofuranosyl-1-H-1,2,4-triazole-3-carboxamide) is the only antiviral treatment currently available for arenavirus infections. However, the ribavirin antiviral mechanism action against arenaviruses remains unknown. Here we document that ribavirin is mutagenic for the prototypic arenavirus lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) in cell culture. The mutagenic activity of ribavirin on LCMV was observed under single- and multiple-passage regimes and could not be accounted for by a decrease of the intracellular GTP pool promoted by ribavirin-mediated inhibition of inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH). Our findings suggest that the antiviral activity of ribavirin on arenaviruses might be exerted, at least partially, by lethal mutagenesis. Implications for antiarenavirus therapy are discussed.

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