Telaprevir Treatment Reduces Paralysis in a Mouse Model of Enterovirus D68 Acute Flaccid Myelitis

Joshua Frost, Michael J. Rudy, J. Smith Leser, Haozhou Tan, Yanmei Hu, Jun Wang, Penny Clarke, Kenneth L. Tyler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2014, 2016, and 2018, the United States experienced unprecedented spikes in pediatric cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which is a poliomyelitis-like paralytic illness. Accumulating clinical, immunological, and epidemiological evidence has identified enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) as a major causative agent of these biennial AFM outbreaks. There are currently no available FDA-approved antivirals that are effective against EV-D68, and the treatment for EV-D68-associated AFM is primarily supportive. Telaprevir is an food and drug administration (FDA)-approved protease inhibitor that irreversibly binds the EV-D68 2A protease and inhibits EV-D68 replication in vitro. Here, we utilize a murine model of EV-D68 associated AFM to show that early telaprevir treatment improves paralysis outcomes in Swiss Webster (SW) mice. Telaprevir reduces both viral titer and apoptotic activity in both muscles and spinal cords at early disease time points, which results in improved AFM outcomes in infected mice. Following intramuscular inoculation in mice, EV-D68 infection results in a stereotypic pattern of weakness that is reflected by the loss of the innervating motor neuron population, in sequential order, of the ipsilateral (injected) hindlimb, the contralateral hindlimb, and then the forelimbs. Telaprevir treatment preserved motor neuron populations and reduced weakness in limbs beyond the injected hindlimb. The effects of telaprevir were not seen when the treatment was delayed, and toxicity limited doses beyond 35 mg/kg. These studies are a proof of principle, provide the first evidence of benefit of an FDA-approved antiviral drug with which to treat AFM, and emphasize both the need to develop better tolerated therapies that remain efficacious when administered after viral infections and the development of clinical symptoms. IMPORTANCE Recent outbreaks of EV-D68 in 2014, 2016, and 2018 have resulted in over 600 cases of a paralytic illness that is known as AFM. AFM is a predominantly pediatric disease with no FDA-approved treatment, and many patients show minimal recovery from limb weakness. Telaprevir is an FDA-approved antiviral that has been shown to inhibit EV-D68 in vitro. Here, we demonstrate that a telaprevir treatment that is given concurrently with an EV-D68 infection improves AFM outcomes in mice by reducing apoptosis and viral titers at early time points. Telaprevir also protected motor neurons and improved paralysis outcomes in limbs beyond the site of viral inoculation. This study improves understanding of EV-D68 pathogenesis in the mouse model of AFM. This study serves as a proof of principle for the first FDA-approved drug that has been shown to improve AFM outcomes and have in vivo efficacy against EV-D68 as well as underlines the importance of the continued development of EV-D68 antivirals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e0015623
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 31 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • EV-D68
  • acute flaccid myelitis
  • enterovirus D68
  • paralysis
  • telaprevir
  • treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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