Antimalarial drugs and their metabolites are potent Zika virus inhibitors

J Med Virol. 2019 Jul;91(7):1182-1190. doi: 10.1002/jmv.25440. Epub 2019 Mar 4.


Studies aimed at repurposing existing drugs revealed that some antimalarial compounds possess anti-Zika virus (anti-ZIKV) activity. Here, we further tested 14 additional antimalarial drugs and their metabolites or analogs for anti-ZIKV activity using a phenotypic screening approach. We identified four compounds with varying anti-ZIKV activity, including a metabolite of amodiaquine termed desethylamodiaquine (DAQ) and N-desethylchloroquine (DECQ), a metabolite of chloroquine, which both exhibited low micromolar effective concentrations against three different ZIKV strains. Two other compounds termed dihydroartemisinin (DHA) and quinidine (QD) exhibited only partial inhibition of ZIKV replication. Characterization of the inhibitory mechanisms of DAQ and DECQ showed that both drugs target the entry step as well as postentry events of the viral replication cycle. These hits represent attractive starting points for future optimization of new anti-ZIKV drug candidates derived from antimalarial drugs and their analogs.

Keywords: Zika; antimalarial; antiviral drug; phenotypic screening; repurposing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimalarials / metabolism
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology*
  • Antiviral Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Culicidae / cytology
  • Drug Repositioning*
  • Vero Cells
  • Virus Replication / drug effects*
  • Zika Virus / drug effects*
  • Zika Virus / physiology


  • Antimalarials
  • Antiviral Agents

Grant support