The antiviral activity versus flaviviruses of artemisinin, a safe drug obtained from Artemisia annua and commonly used to treat malaria, has been investigated using as an IN VITRO model bovine epithelial cells from embryonic trachea (EBTr) infected with the cytopathic strain Oregon C24V, of bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV), which is a member of the Flaviviridae family. Antiviral activity was estimated by the degree of protection against the cytopathic effect of BVDV on host cells and by the reduction in BVDV-RNA release to the culture medium. To induce an intermediate cytopathic effect in non-treated cells, EBTr cells were first exposed to BVDV for 48 h and then incubated with virus-free medium for 72 h. Ribavirin and artemisinin (up to 100 microM) induced no toxicity in host cells, whereas a slight degree of toxicity was observed for IFN-alpha at concentrations above 10 U/mL up to 100 U/mL. Treatment of infected cells with IFN-alpha, ribavirin and artemisinin markedly reduced BVDV-induced cell death. A combination of these drugs resulted in an additive protective effect. These drugs induced a significant reduction in the production/release of BVDV virions by infected EBTr cells; there was also an additive effect when combinations of them were assayed. These results suggest a potential usefulness of artemisinin in combination with current pharmacological therapy for the treatment of human and veterinary infections by flaviviruses.