Effect of undecylenic acid as a topical microbicide against genital herpes infection in mice and guinea pigs

Antiviral Res. 1999 Jan;40(3):139-44. doi: 10.1016/s0166-3542(98)00055-2.


There is increasing interest in the use of topical microbicides to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Undecylenic acid (UA), a monosaturated fatty acid, is the active ingredient in a number of over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal spray powders, that also exhibits in vitro antibacterial and antiviral activity, including herpes simplex virus (HSV) activity. We, therefore, evaluated UA as a topical microbicide against genital HSV infection using the murine and guinea pig models of genital herpes. Mice were administered a 20% solution of UA in polyethylene glycol (PEG) vehicle, vehicle alone or phosphate buffered saline (PBS) intravaginally immediately prior to vaginal challenge with HSV-2. Pre-treatment with UA decreased the number of mice that became infected (P < 0.001 vs. PBS or vehicle control), developed symptoms (P <0.001) or died (P <0.001). However, when treatment was extended to either 5 min prior to or after viral inoculation, protection was lost. Similar findings were found using the guinea pig model, where UA treatment completely prevented HSV-2 vaginal infection when given immediately prior to HSV-2 inoculation (P<0.001 vs. PBS or vehicle control). Thus, UA, an approved OTC medication, provided significant protection against HSV disease and infection only when applied immediately before viral inoculation, indicating that better formulations were needed to extend the duration of protection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Herpes Genitalis / drug therapy*
  • Herpes Genitalis / prevention & control
  • Mice
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Undecylenic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Undecylenic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Vagina / virology


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Undecylenic Acids