Background: Various members of the mint family have been used historically in Chinese and Native American medicine. Many of these same family members, including Prunella vulgaris, have been reported to have anti-viral activities. To further characterize the anti-lentiviral activities of P. vulgaris, water and ethanol extractions were tested for their ability to inhibit equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV) replication.
Results: Aqueous extracts contained more anti-viral activity than did ethanol extracts, displaying potent anti-lentiviral activity against virus in cell lines as well as in primary cell cultures with little to no cellular cytotoxicity. Time-of-addition studies demonstrated that the extracts were effective when added during the first four h of the viral life cycle, suggesting that the botanical constituents were targeting the virion itself or early entry events. Further analysis revealed that the extracts did not destroy EIAV virion integrity, but prevented viral particles from binding to the surface of permissive cells. Modest levels of anti-EIAV activity were also detected when the cells were treated with the extracts prior to infection, indicating that anti-EIAV botanical constituents could interact with both viral particles and permissive cells to interfere with infectivity. Size fractionation of the extract demonstrated that eight of the nine fractions generated from aqueous extracts displayed anti-viral activity. Separation of ethanol soluble and insoluble compounds in the eight active fractions revealed that ethanol-soluble constituents were responsible for the anti-viral activity in one fraction whereas ethanol-insoluble constituents were important for the anti-viral activity in two of the other fractions. In three of the five fractions that lost activity upon sub-fractionation, anti-viral activity was restored upon reconstitution of the fractions, indicating that synergistic anti-viral activity is present in several of the fractions.
Conclusion: Our findings indicate that multiple Prunella constituents have profound anti-viral activity against EIAV, providing additional evidence of the broad anti-viral abilities of these extracts. The ability of the aqueous extracts to prevent entry of viral particles into permissive cells suggests that these extracts may function as promising microbicides against lentiviruses.