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Host-targeted nitazoxanide has a high barrier to resistance but does not reduce the emergence or proliferation of oseltamivir-resistant influenza viruses in vitro or in vivo when used in combination with oseltamivir


  • Tilmanis, Danielle
  • Koszalka, Paulina
  • Barr, Ian G.
  • Rossignol, Jean-Francois
  • Mifsud, Edin
  • Hurt, Aeron C.


Antiviral Research, Volume 180, 2020-08-31

Article Link: Click here

Abstract A major limitation of the currently available influenza antivirals is the potential development of drug resistance. The adamantanes, neuraminidase inhibitors, and more recently polymerase inhibitors, have all been associated with the emergence of viral resistance in preclinical, clinical studies or in clinical use. As a result, host-targeted drugs that act on cellular proteins or functions have become an attractive option for influenza treatment as they are less likely to select for resistance. Nitazoxanide (NTZ) is a host-targeted antiviral that is currently in Phase III clinical trials for the treatment of influenza. In this study, we investigated the propensity for circulating influenza viruses to develop resistance to nitazoxanide in vitro by serially passaging viruses under selective pressure. Phenotypic and genotypic analysis of viruses passaged ten times in the presence of up to 20 μM tizoxanide (TIZ; the active metabolite of nitazoxanide) showed that none had a significant change in TIZ susceptibility, and amino acid substitutions arising that were unique to TIZ passaged viruses, did not alter TIZ susceptibility. Combination therapy, particularly utilising drugs with different mechanisms of action, is another option for combatting antiviral resistance, and while combination therapy has been shown to improve antiviral effects, the effect of reducing the emergence and selection of drug-resistant virus has been less widely investigated. Here we examined the use of TIZ in combination with oseltamivir, both in vitro and using the ferret model for influenza infection and found that the combination of the two drugs did not provide significant benefit in reducing the emergence or selection of oseltamivir-resistant virus. These in vitro findings suggest that clinical use of NTZ may be significantly less likely to select for resistance in circulating influenza viruses compared to virus-targeted antivirals, and although the combination of NTZ with oseltamivir did not reduce the emergence of oseltamivir-resistant virus in vitro or in vivo, combination therapy with NTZ and other newer classes of influenza antiviral drugs should be considered due to NTZ's higher host-based barrier to resistance.