An urgent need for additional agents to treat human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection led us to assess the anti-HIV-1 activity of the natural product propolis in CD4(+) lymphocytes and microglial cell cultures. Propolis inhibited viral expression in a concentration-dependent manner (maximal suppression of 85 and 98% was observed at 66.6 microg/ml propolis in CD4(+) and microglial cell cultures, respectively). Similar anti-HIV-1 activity was observed with propolis samples from several geographic regions. The mechanism of propolis antiviral property in CD4(+) lymphocytes appeared to involve, in part, inhibition of viral entry. While propolis had an additive antiviral effect on the reverse transcriptase inhibitor zidovudine, it had no noticeable effect on the protease inhibitor indinavir. The results of this in vitro study support the need for clinical trials of propolis or one or more of its components in the treatment of HIV-1 infection.