Antiviral activity of cationic amphiphilic drugs

Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2017 May;15(5):483-492. doi: 10.1080/14787210.2017.1305888. Epub 2017 Mar 20.


Emerging and reemerging viral infections represent a major concern for human and veterinary public health and there is an urgent need for the development of broad-spectrum antivirals. Areas covered: A recent strategy in antiviral research is based on the identification of molecules targeting host functions required for infection of multiple viruses. A number of FDA-approved drugs used to treat several human diseases are cationic amphiphilic drugs (CADs) that have the ability to accumulate inside cells affecting several structures/functions hijacked by viruses during infection. In this review we summarized the CADs' chemical properties and effects on the cells and reported the main FDA-approved CADs that have been identified so far as potential antivirals in drug repurposing studies. Expert commentary: Although there have been concerns regarding the efficacy and the possible side effects of the off-label use of CADs as antivirals, they seem to represent a promising starting point for the development of broad-spectrum antiviral strategies. Further knowledge about their mechanism of action is required to improve their antiviral activity and to reduce the risk of side effects.

Keywords: Amiodarone; Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever virus; Herpes simplex virus; U18666A; Zika virus; antivirals; cationic amphiphilic drugs; chikungunya virus; chloroquine; dengue virus; ebola virus; emerging viruses; enterovirus; hepatitis C virus; ion channel blockers; protein kinase inhibitors; psychoactive drug; selective estrogen receptor modulators.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Repositioning*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Transport Modulators / therapeutic use
  • Off-Label Use*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Surface-Active Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Virus Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Virus Diseases / virology
  • Viruses / drug effects


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Antimalarials
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Membrane Transport Modulators
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Surface-Active Agents

Grant support

This work was supported by University of Padova grants (ex60% 2009-2015).