Antiviral activity of carnosic acid against respiratory syncytial virus

Han Bo Shin, Myung Soo Choi, Byeol Ryu, Na Rae Lee, Hye In Kim, Hye Eun Choi, Jun Chang, Kyung Tae Lee, Dae Sik Jang, Kyung Soo Inn

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66 Scopus citations


Background: Human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) is a leading cause of severe lower respiratory infection and a major public health threat worldwide. To date, no vaccine or effective therapeutic agent has been developed. In a screen for potential therapeutic agents against hRSV, we discovered that an extract of Rosmarinus officinalis exerted a strong inhibitory effect against hRSV infection. Subsequent studies identified carnosic acid as a bioactive constituent responsible for anti-hRSV activity. Carnosic acid has been shown to exhibit potent antioxidant and anti-cancer activities. Anti-RSV activity of carnosic acid was further investigated in this study. Methods. Effects of extracts from various plants and subfractions from R. officinalis on hRSV replication were determined by microneutralization assay and plaque assay. Several constituents were isolated from ethyl acetate fraction of R. officinalis and their anti-RSV activities were assessed by plaque assay as well as reverse-transcription quantitative PCR to determine the synthesis of viral RNAs. Results: Among the tested bioactive constituents of R. officinalis, carnosic acid displayed the most potent anti-hRSV activity and was effective against both A- and B-type viruses. Carnosic acid efficiently suppressed the replication of hRSV in a concentration-dependent manner. Carnosic acid effectively suppressed viral gene expression without inducing type-I interferon production or affecting cell viability, suggesting that it may directly affect viral factors. A time course analysis showed that addition of carnosic acid 8 hours after infection still effectively blocked the expression of hRSV genes, further suggesting that carnosic acid directly inhibited the replication of hRSV. Conclusions: The current study demonstrates that carnosic acid, a natural compound that has already been shown to be safe for human consumption, has anti-viral activity against hRSV, efficiently blocking the replication of this virus. Carnosic acid inhibited both A- and B- type hRSV, while it did not affect the replication of influenza A virus, suggesting that its antiviral activity is hRSV-specific. Collectively, this study suggests the need for further evaluation of carnosic acid as a potential treatment for hRSV.

Original languageEnglish
Article number303
JournalVirology Journal
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the Kyung Hee University in 2012 (KHU-20120474).


  • Anti-hRSV activity
  • Carnosic acid
  • Rosemarinus officinalis
  • hRSV


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