Host-Directed Antiviral Therapy

Clin Microbiol Rev. 2020 May 13;33(3):e00168-19. doi: 10.1128/CMR.00168-19. Print 2020 Jun 17.


Antiviral drugs have traditionally been developed by directly targeting essential viral components. However, this strategy often fails due to the rapid generation of drug-resistant viruses. Recent genome-wide approaches, such as those employing small interfering RNA (siRNA) or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) or those using small molecule chemical inhibitors targeting the cellular "kinome," have been used successfully to identify cellular factors that can support virus replication. Since some of these cellular factors are critical for virus replication, but are dispensable for the host, they can serve as novel targets for antiviral drug development. In addition, potentiation of immune responses, regulation of cytokine storms, and modulation of epigenetic changes upon virus infections are also feasible approaches to control infections. Because it is less likely that viruses will mutate to replace missing cellular functions, the chance of generating drug-resistant mutants with host-targeted inhibitor approaches is minimized. However, drug resistance against some host-directed agents can, in fact, occur under certain circumstances, such as long-term selection pressure of a host-directed antiviral agent that can allow the virus the opportunity to adapt to use an alternate host factor or to alter its affinity toward the target that confers resistance. This review describes novel approaches for antiviral drug development with a focus on host-directed therapies and the potential mechanisms that may account for the acquisition of antiviral drug resistance against host-directed agents.

Keywords: antiviral agents; drug resistance; epigenetic regulation; host factors; precision medicine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • Drug Development*
  • Gene Targeting
  • Host-Derived Cellular Factors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Host-Derived Cellular Factors / genetics
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • RNA, Small Interfering*
  • Virus Replication / genetics*
  • Viruses / genetics


  • Host-Derived Cellular Factors
  • RNA, Small Interfering