Forty years after the last endemic smallpox case, variola virus (VARV) is still considered a major threat to humans due to its possible use as a bioterrorism agent. For many years, the risk of disease reemergence was thought to solely be through deliberate misuse of VARV strains kept in clandestine laboratories. However, recent experiments using synthetic biology have proven the feasibility of recreating a poxvirus de novo, implying that VARV could, in theory, be resurrected. Because of this new perspective, the WHO Advisory Committee on VARV Research released new recommendations concerning research on poxviruses that strongly encourages pursuing the development of new antiviral drugs against orthopoxviruses. In 2018, the U.S. FDA advised in favor of two molecules for smallpox treatment, tecovirimat and brincidofovir. This review highlights the difficulties to develop new drugs targeting an eradicated disease, especially as it requires working under the FDA “animal efficacy rule” with the few, and imperfect, animal models available.



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Citation Déborah DelauneFrédéric Iseni