Background: Porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2)-associated diseases are a major problem for the swine industry worldwide. In addition to vaccines, the availability of antiviral polymers provides an efficient and safe option for reducing the impact of these diseases. By virtue of their molecular weight and repetitious structure, polymers possess properties not found in small-molecule drugs. In this perspective, we focus on chitosan, a ubiquitous biopolymer, that adjusts the molecular weight and sulfated-mediated functionality can act as an efficient antiviral polymer by mimicking PCV2-cell receptor interactions. Methods: Sulfated chitosan (Chi-S) polymers of two molecular weights were synthesized and characterized by FTIR, SEM–EDS and elemental analysis. The Chi-S solutions were tested against PCV2 infection in PK15 cells in vitro and antiviral activity was evaluated by measuring the PCV2 DNA copy number, TCID50 and capsid protein expression, upon application of different molecular weights, sulfate functionalization, and concentrations of polymer. In addition, to explore the mode of action of the Chi-S against PCV2 infection, experiments were designed to elucidate whether the antiviral activity of the Chi-S would be influenced by when it was added to the cells, relative to the time and stage of viral infection. Results: Chi-S significantly reduced genomic copies, TCID50 titers and capsid protein of PCV2, showing specific antiviral effects depending on its molecular weight, concentration, and chemical functionalization. Assays designed to explore the mode of action of the low molecular weight Chi-S revealed that it exerted antiviral activity through impeding viral attachment and penetration into cells. Conclusions: These findings help better understanding the interactions of PCV2 and porcine cells and reinforce the idea that sulfated polymers, such as Chi-S, represent a promising candidates for use in antiviral therapies against PCV2-associated diseases. Further studies in swine are warranted.
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