Discovery of berberine, abamectin and ivermectin as antivirals against chikungunya and other alphaviruses

Antiviral Res. 2016 Feb:126:117-24. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2015.12.012. Epub 2016 Jan 2.


Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an arthritogenic arbovirus of the Alphavirus genus, which has infected millions of people after its re-emergence in the last decade. In this study, a BHK cell line containing a stable CHIKV replicon with a luciferase reporter was used in a high-throughput platform to screen approximately 3000 compounds. Following initial validation, 25 compounds were chosen as primary hits for secondary validation with wild type and reporter CHIKV infection, which identified three promising compounds. Abamectin (EC50 = 1.5 μM) and ivermectin (EC50 = 0.6 μM) are fermentation products generated by a soil dwelling actinomycete, Streptomyces avermitilis, whereas berberine (EC50 = 1.8 μM) is a plant-derived isoquinoline alkaloid. They inhibited CHIKV replication in a dose-dependent manner and had broad antiviral activity against other alphaviruses--Semliki Forest virus and Sindbis virus. Abamectin and ivermectin were also active against yellow fever virus, a flavivirus. These compounds caused reduced synthesis of CHIKV genomic and antigenomic viral RNA as well as downregulation of viral protein expression. Time of addition experiments also suggested that they act on the replication phase of the viral infectious cycle.

Keywords: Alphavirus; Antiviral screening; Chikungunya virus; RNA replication; Yellow fever virus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alphavirus / drug effects*
  • Alphavirus / physiology
  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Berberine / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chikungunya Fever / drug therapy*
  • Chikungunya Fever / virology
  • Chikungunya virus / drug effects*
  • Chikungunya virus / physiology
  • Cricetinae
  • DNA, Viral / antagonists & inhibitors
  • DNA, Viral / biosynthesis
  • DNA, Viral / drug effects
  • Flavivirus / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Ivermectin / analogs & derivatives
  • Ivermectin / pharmacology
  • RNA, Viral / antagonists & inhibitors
  • RNA, Viral / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Viral / drug effects
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • Replicon / drug effects
  • Viral Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Viral Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Viral Proteins / drug effects
  • Virus Replication / drug effects
  • Yellow fever virus / drug effects


  • Antiviral Agents
  • DNA, Viral
  • RNA, Viral
  • Viral Proteins
  • Berberine
  • abamectin
  • Ivermectin