NIH/NIAID – Emmie de Wit

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a grant of USD 391,582 to support Henipavirus research and model development enabling antiviral R&D

Nipah virus causes severe neurological disease, often combined with respiratory symptoms. Most human Nipah virus cases are fatal, and survivors often have long-lasting neurological problems. Nipah virus neurological disease is poorly understood because almost no data or samples are collected from patients, and most animal models used in laboratories only display respiratory signs. It is therefore difficult to predict how well antivirals will treat the neurological symptoms in patients and thus prevent them from dying or having lasting neurological issues. In the project “Neuropathogenesis of Nipah virus: a pathway to new targets for Henipavirus antivirals” the principal investigator Emmie de Wit together with co-PI Cathryn L. Haigh aim to develop Nipah virus disease models in both human cerebral organoids and in hamsters. Such models are important to test the effect of Nipah virus antivirals on neurological disease, thereby increasing the chance that new antivirals will be effective once used in patients. Additionally, these models will be used to study how Nipah virus causes neurological disease, in order to identify new targets to develop treatments against. The project is hosted at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH in the USA and will commence in March 2023 and run for 3 years.

Picture (above) shows Nipah virus RNA (brown stain) detected by in situ hybridization in neurons in the brain of an African green monkey infected with Nipah virus (Credit: NIAID).