Inhibition of herpes simplex virus type 1 by the experimental immunosuppressive agent leflunomide

Transplantation. 2001 Jan 15;71(1):170-4. doi: 10.1097/00007890-200101150-00031.


Background: Despite advances in antiviral chemotherapy, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), continues to complicate the clinical course of many allograft recipients. We have previously demonstrated that the experimental immunosuppressive agent leflunomide inhibits production of cytomegalovirus by interference with virion assembly. We test the hypothesis that this agent exerts similar antiviral activity against HSV-1.

Methods and results: Plaque assay of virus yield from endothelial or Vero cells after inoculation with each of four clinical HSV-1 isolates demonstrated a dose-dependent reduction of virus production in the presence of pharmacologic concentrations of A77 1726, the active metabolite of leflunomide. DNA dot blot and biochemical assay of viral DNA polymerase activity indicated that A77 does not inhibit viral DNA synthesis. Rather, as visualized by transmission electron microscopic method, this agent seems to disrupt virion assembly by preventing nucleocapsid tegumentation.

Conclusions: These findings, in demonstrating that leflunomide exerts antiviral activity against HSV-1 by mechanisms similar to those we have previously shown with cytomegalovirus, imply that this agent may possess broad spectrum activity against other herpesviruses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Isoxazoles / pharmacology*
  • Leflunomide
  • Vero Cells / virology


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Isoxazoles
  • Leflunomide