Antiviral activity of 1-docosanol, an inhibitor of lipid-enveloped viruses including herpes simplex

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 Dec 1;88(23):10825-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.88.23.10825.


This article reports that 1-docosanol, a 22-carbon-long saturated alcohol, exerts a substantial inhibitory effect on replication of certain viruses (e.g., herpes simplex virus and respiratory syncytial virus) within primary target cells in vitro. To study the basis for its viral inhibitory activity, a suspension of 1-docosanol was formulated in an inert and nontoxic surfactant, Pluronic F-68; this suspension exerted potent inhibitory activity on the ability of susceptible viruses to infect cultured target cells. Susceptible viruses included wild-type herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 as well as acyclovir-resistant herpes simplex virus 2 and also respiratory syncytial virus--all of which are lipid-enveloped. In contrast, nonenveloped poliovirus was not susceptible to the inhibitory action of 1-docosanol. Although the precise mechanism has yet to be defined, current evidence suggests that 1-docosanol inhibits viral replication by interfering with the early intracellular events surrounding viral entry into target cells. It is possible that interaction between the highly lipophilic compound and components of target cell membranes renders such target cells less susceptible to viral fusion and/or entry. If this mechanism proves to be correct, 1-docosanol may provide a broad spectrum activity against many different viruses, especially those with lipid-containing envelopes.

MeSH terms

  • Acyclovir / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Viral / analysis
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Fatty Alcohols / pharmacology*
  • Kinetics
  • Lipids
  • Poliovirus / drug effects
  • Poliovirus / physiology*
  • Simplexvirus / drug effects
  • Simplexvirus / physiology*
  • Vero Cells
  • Viral Plaque Assay
  • Virus Replication / drug effects*


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Fatty Alcohols
  • Lipids
  • docosanol
  • Acyclovir