Public Release: 

Ross River virus battle breakthrough

Griffith University

Research conducted by Griffith University and Melbourne-based company Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals Limited (ASX: PAR) has uncovered a potential new therapeutic treatment for the global battle against mosquito-borne alphavirus infections, including the debilitating Ross River Virus (RRV) and Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV).

Currently RRV and CHIKV sufferers are only offered symptomatic management in the form of either non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or corticosteroids, which in some cases may actually exacerbate the condition.

These therapeutics may offer some short-term symptomatic relief but their use often results in detrimental side-effects while failing to treat the underlying disease.

Researchers at Griffith University may have discovered a breakthrough in the treatment of mosquito transmitted viral diseases like RRV and CHIKV.

Pre-clinical experiments conducted by researchers at Griffith University's Institute for Glycomics on the Gold Coast have demonstrated world-first results showing that the historic drug, pentosan polysulfate sodium (PPS), can successfully treat both the acute and chronic disease manifestations symptoms of alphavirus infections in the animal model.

Several human patients have also been treated with PPS under the Therapeutic Goods Administration Special Access Scheme. These patients, who previously were severely debilitated and had difficulty with daily activities, have reported remarkable improvements in their physical capabilities and general well-being. In these RRV patients treated with PPS the results demonstrate the drug was well tolerated and produced strong signals of clinical effects.

Queensland man Jon Chaseling said, "I suffered the effects of Ross River Fever for years. Most days I found it nearly impossible to do something as simple as walking down a flight of stairs. I avoided shaking hands with people because of the pain it caused. Even the weight of the bedclothes at night was agonising. Since undergoing a course of treatment with PPS, I find I'm far more mobile and in much less pain. It's literally changed my life."

Lead researcher, Dr Lara Herrero, became interested in alphaviruses after becoming infected with Ross River virus in Western Australia in 2004.

"Alphavirus infection is characterised by crippling musculoskeletal pain, inflammation and swelling in the joints, often leading to the destruction of cartilage," she said. "Currently there's only symptomatic relief available to RRV and CHIKV sufferers with the use of either non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or corticosteroids, both which can have detrimental side-effects and in some cases may actually exacerbate the condition. But when PPS was used to treat the viral disease in the mouse model, we observed a significant reduction in musculoskeletal damage. These data point to PPS being a well-tolerated anti-inflammatory therapy and also a disease modifying drug by protecting the joint cartilage".

"We're extremely encouraged by the preclinical results and five clinical cases but our next step is to confirm these results in a Phase 2 clinical trial" said Mr Paul Rennie, CEO of Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals.

Griffith University and Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals have entered into a commercialisation agreement under which Paradigm will fund and undertake the necessary clinical trials. If the trials are successful Griffith University will receive a royalty on Paradigm's sale of the drug to treat viral arthritis.


About Ross River Virus and Chikungunya Virus

Ross River virus is a mosquito-transmitted alphavirus that causes epidemic polyarthritis and bone pain. It is Australia's most common arbovirus with about five thousand cases notified each year. [Ref: Australian Family Physician Vol 36 No. 8 Aug 2009]

Chikungunya virus, also a mosquito transmitted alphavirus, originated in Africa and has since expanded its global range with outbreaks occurring in several other continents. In 2006-2007 a large outbreak of chikungunya occurred in India with several other countries in South-East Asia also affected. Since 2005, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar and Thailand have reported over 1.9 million cases. In 2007 transmission was reported for the first time in Europe with the first case originating from a returned traveller. In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean also in South America - areas in which chikungunya was not previously transmitted. Local transmission has also occurred in the United States, where the virus was previously unknown. Experts predict is just a matter of time before local transmission occurs in Australia. There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travellers. As noted previously, there is no vaccine to prevent or drugs to treat Ross River or chikungunya virus infections. [Ref: WHO website, CDC website and]

About the Institute for Glycomics

The Institute for Glycomics is a flagship biomedical research institute at Griffith University's Gold Coast Campus. Since its inception in 2000, the Institute for Glycomics quickly became recognised as one of the largest in the world with a core focus on this complex and emerging field of research. It was the glycomics approach that led to the discovery of the world's first drug against the influenza virus, Relenza®, and the award of the Australia Prize to the Director of the Institute for Glycomics, Professor Mark von Itzstein.

Today, the Institute has some of Australia's most renowned research leaders and state-of-the-art facilities. The unique, multidisciplinary approach and extraordinary research capacity is now being used to develop the next generation of drugs and vaccines to fight diseases of global impact.

About Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals Ltd:

Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals Ltd (ASX: PAR) is an Australian biopharmaceutical company focused on repurposing the historic drug PPS (Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium) as a potential new treatment for Bone Marrow Edema (BME) lesions following traumatic injury. Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals is also repurposing PPS for respiratory diseases including Allergic Rhinitis (AR) also known as hay fever. Repurposing an existing drug diminishes early developmental risks associated with traditional new drug development and usually means shorter development times, lower development costs and less safety risk.

ABN: 94 169 346 963

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