A Preclinical Model for Studying Herpes Simplex Virus Infection

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Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections can cause considerable morbidity. Currently, nucleoside analogues such as acyclovir are widely used for treatment. However, HSV infections resistant to these drugs are a clinical problem among immunocompromised patients. To provide more efficient therapy and to counteract resistance, a different class of antiviral compounds has been developed. Pritelivir, a helicase primase inhibitor, represents a promising candidate for improved therapy. Here, we established an HSV-1 infection model on microneedle-pretreated human skin ex vivo. We identified HSV-1–specific histological changes (e.g., cytopathic effects, multinucleated giant cells), down-regulation of nectin-1, nuclear translocation of NF-κB (p65), interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3), and signaling of the IFN-inducible protein MxA. Accordingly, this model was used to test the potency of pritelivir compared with the standard drug acyclovir. We discovered that both drugs had a comparable efficacy for inhibiting HSV-1 replication, suggesting that pritelivir could be an alternative therapeutic agent for patients infected with acyclovir-resistant strains. To our knowledge, we present a previously unreported ex vivo HSV-1 infection model with abdominal human skin to test antiviral drugs, thus bridging the gap between in vitro and in vivo drug screening and providing a valuable preclinical platform for HSV research.




Tajpara, P., Mildner, M., Schmidt, R., Vierhapper, M., Matiasek, J., Popow-Kraupp, T., … Elbe-Bürger, A. (2019). A Preclinical Model for Studying Herpes Simplex Virus Infection. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 139(3), 673–682. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jid.2018.08.034

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