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J Nutr Biochem. 2009 Aug;20(8):563-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2009.04.004.

Soy isoflavones and virus infections.

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Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center, University of Arkansas for the Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR, USA.


Isoflavones and their related flavonoid compounds exert antiviral properties in vitro and in vivo against a wide range of viruses. Genistein is, by far, the most studied soy isoflavone in this regard, and it has been shown to inhibit the infectivity of enveloped or nonenveloped viruses, as well as single-stranded or double-stranded RNA or DNA viruses. At concentrations ranging from physiological to supraphysiological (3.7-370 muM), flavonoids, including genistein, have been shown to reduce the infectivity of a variety of viruses affecting humans and animals, including adenovirus, herpes simplex virus, human immunodeficiency virus, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, and rotavirus. Although the biological properties of the flavonoids are well studied, the mechanisms of action underlying their antiviral properties have not been fully elucidated. Current results suggest a combination of effects on both the virus and the host cell. Isoflavones have been reported to affect virus binding, entry, replication, viral protein translation and formation of certain virus envelope glycoprotein complexes. Isoflavones also affect a variety of host cell signaling processes, including induction of gene transcription factors and secretion of cytokines. The efficacy of isoflavones and related flavonoids in virus infectivity in in vitro bioassays is dependent on the dose, frequency of administration and combination of isoflavones used. Despite promising in vitro results, there is lack of data confirming the in vivo efficacy of soy isoflavones. Thus, investigations using appropriate in vivo virus infectivity models to examine pharmacological and especially physiological doses of flavonoids are warranted.

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