Prevention and treatment of influenza virus infection is an ongoing unmet medical need. Each year, thousands of deaths and millions of hospitalizations are attributed to influenza virus infection, which poses a tremendous health and economic burden to the society. Aside from the annual influenza season, influenza viruses also lead to occasional influenza pandemics as a result of emerging or re-emerging influenza strains. Influenza viruses are RNA viruses that exist in quasispecies, meaning that they have a very diverse genetic background. Such a feature creates a grand challenge in devising therapeutic intervention strategies to inhibit influenza virus replication, as a single agent might not be able to inhibit all influenza virus strains. Both classes of currently approved anti-influenza drugs have limitations: the M2 channel blockers amantadine and rimantadine are no longer recommended for use in the U.S. due to predominant drug resistance, and resistance to the neuraminidase inhibitor oseltamivir is continuously on the rise. In pursuing the next generation of antiviral drugs with broad-spectrum activity and higher genetic barrier of drug resistance, the influenza virus nucleoprotein (NP) stands out as a high-profile drug target. This review summarizes recent developments in designing inhibitors targeting influenza NP and their mechanisms of action.
Keywords: Influenza virus, Nucleoprotein, Antivirals, Nucleozin, Antiviral drug resistance, RNA viruses.