Genital herpes caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is a chronic, persistent infection spreading efficiently and silently as sexually transmitted disease through the population. Antiviral agents currently applied for the treatment of herpesvirus infections include acyclovir and derivatives. Aqueous and ethanolic extracts of propolis were phytochemically analysed, different polyphenols, flavonoids and phenylcarboxylic acids were identified as major constituents. The aqueous propolis extract revealed a relatively high amount of phenylcarboxylic acids and low concentrations flavonoids when compared to the ethanolic special extract GH 2002. The cytotoxic and antiherpetic effect of propolis extracts against HSV-2 was analysed in cell culture, and revealed a moderate cytotoxicity on RC-37 cells. The 50% inhibitory concentration (IC(50)) of aqueous and ethanolic GH 2002 propolis extracts for HSV-2 plaque formation was determined at 0.0005% and 0.0004%, respectively. Both propolis extracts exhibited high levels of antiviral activity against HSV-2 in viral suspension tests, infectivity was significantly reduced by >99% and a direct concentration- and time-dependent antiherpetic activity could be demonstrated for both extracts. In order to determine the mode of virus suppression by propolis, the extracts were added at different times during the viral infection cycle. Addition of these drugs to uninfected cells prior to infection or to herpesvirus-infected cells during intracellular replication had no effect on virus multiplication. However both propolis extracts exhibited high anti-herpetic activity when viruses were pretreated with these drugs prior to infection. Selectivity indices were determined at 80 and 42.5 for the aqueous and ethanolic extract, respectively, thus propolis extracts might be suitable for topical therapy in recurrent herpetic infection.
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