In the present study, ascorbic acid weakly inhibited the multiplication of viruses of three different families: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), influenza virus type A and poliovirus type 1. Dehydroascorbic acid, an oxidized form of ascorbic acid and hence without reducing ability, showed much stronger antiviral activity than ascorbic acid, indicating that the antiviral activity of ascorbic acid is due to factors other than an antioxidant mechanism. Moreover, addition of 1 mM Fe3+, which oxidizes ascorbic acid to dehydroascorbic acid and also enhances the formation of hydroxyl radicals by ascorbic acid in the culture media, strongly enhanced the antiviral activity of ascorbic acid to a level significantly stronger than that of dehydroascorbic acid. Although both ascorbic acid and dehydroascorbic acid showed some cytotoxicity, the degree of cytotoxicity of the former was 10-fold higher than the latter, suggesting that the observed antiviral activity of ascorbic acid with and without ferric ion is, at least in part, a secondary result of the cytotoxic effect of the reagent, most likely due to the free radicals. However, the possibility that oxidation of ascorbic acid also contributed to the antiviral effects of ascorbic acid exists, in particular in the presence of ferric ion, since dehydroascorbic acid exhibited a very strong antiviral activity. Characterization of the mode of antiviral action of dehydroascorbic acid revealed that the addition of the reagent even at 11 h post infection almost completely inhibited the formation of progeny infectious virus in the infected cells, indicating that the reagent inhibits HSV-1 multiplication probably at the assembly process of progeny virus particles after the completion of viral DNA replication.