A culture of P. funiculosum isolated on Guam proved capable of elaborating a substance which exerted a favorable therapeutic effect against swine influenza virus infections in white mice. The culture was extremely variable and irregular in its production of the antiviral substance, and during maintenance in the laboratory for several years gradually lost this property. Efforts to restore it were unsuccessful.
Subsequently it was found that the mold elaborated a substance, now designated helenine, which is therapeutically effective against Columbia SK encephalomyelitis virus infections in mice. Helenine appears to differ from the substance earlier procured from the mold, which was active against swine influenza virus infections in mice. It is frequently present in greater or lesser amount in the fluid portions of stationary cultures of P. funiculosum but is more regularly obtained and in larger amount, from the cellular components of the pellicles. When liberated from these latter by mechanical bruising and fracturing, it goes into solution in the culture fluids. It is precipitable from aqueous solution by 50 per cent acetone.
Infected mice injected with helenine in amounts less than the amount which produces a maximal therapeutic effect exhibit a dosage response. Increasing the dose above the optimum fails to increase the therapeutic effect.
Helenine exerts its maximum effect when given within the first 10 hours after viral infection but its influence is apparent even when treatment is delayed for up to 24 hours. It is not effective against massive amounts of virus and gives the best therapeutic results when used in the treatment of animals infected with from 10 to 1000 fatal doses of virus. Treatment of infected mice with helenine delays the entrance of virus into their brains for from 24 to 48 hours.
The mechanism by which helenine exerts its therapeutic effect against SK virus is not known but the findings presented suggest either that it causes an inhibition or interruption of multiplication of the virus, slowing down the whole process of infection and spread to the central nervous system, or that in some way it interferes temporarily with the neuroinvasiveness of the virus.