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Keywords:

  • Antiviral;
  • cytomegalovirus;
  • leflunomide;
  • transplantation

We previously reported that the immunosuppressive malononitrileamides leflunomide and FK778 exert antiviral activity against cytomegalovirus (CMV). In the current investigation, we tested the hypothesis that leflunomide exerts concurrent antiviral activity and immune suppression in CMV-infected cardiac allograft recipients. Lewis rats were transplanted with Brown Norway hearts and then inoculated with rat CMV. Plaque assay demonstrated that leflunomide (30 mg/kg/day) reduced viral loads by 4–6 logs, and that the reduction in viral load was unaffected by administration of uridine. Leflunomide was as effective as cyclosporine A (CsA) or tacrolimus in preservation of allograft integrity through day 28. These studies directly demonstrate the bifunctionality of leflunomide as concurrently immunosuppressive and antiviral, enhancing the promise of this agent as a clinical option for treatment of transplant recipients.