Treatment of chronic woodchuck hepatitis virus infection in the eastern woodchuck (marmota monax) with nucleoside analogues is predictive of therapy for chronic hepatitis B virus infection in humans



The woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) and its natural host, the Eastern woodchuck (Marmota monax), have been established as a model of hepatitis B virus (HBV)-induced disease. Several published studies have used this experimental animal model system to demonstrate potential antiviral therapies for chronic HBV infections. However, there has been little comparative information available on compounds used in clinical anti-HBV studies in WHV-infected woodchucks, thereby making interpretations of the potential relative effectiveness of new antiviral agents in humans more difficult. In this report, using a series of placebo-controlled studies, we compared the relative effectiveness of several nucleoside analogues that have been used in clinical trials for the treatment of chronic HBV infection against WHV replication in chronically infected woodchucks. Adenine-5′-arabinoside monophosphate (Ara-AMP [vidarabine]), ribavirin, (−)β-L -2′,3′-dideoxy-3′-thiacytidine (3TC [lamivudine]), and famciclovir (oral prodrug of penciclovir) induced depressions in viremia and intrahepatic WHV-DNA replication that were consistent with their relative effectiveness in anti-HBV human clinical trials. As observed in HBV-infected patients, 3′ azido-3′-deoxythymidine (AZT [zidovudine]) had no effect on WHV replication in these studies. These experimental results more firmly establish chronic WHV infection in woodchucks as an accurate and predictive model for antiviral therapies against chronic HBV infection in humans and provide a baseline for comparative antiviral effects of other experimental antiviral agents in the WHV/woodchuck model system.