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PLoS One. 2010 Apr 28;5(4):e10370. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010370.

Artemisinin-derived dimers have greatly improved anti-cytomegalovirus activity compared to artemisinin monomers.

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Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America.



Artesunate, an artemisinin-derived monomer, was reported to inhibit Cytomegalovirus (CMV) replication. We aimed to compare the in-vitro anti-CMV activity of several artemisinin-derived monomers and newly synthesized artemisinin dimers.


Four artemisinin monomers and two novel artemisinin-derived dimers were tested for anti-CMV activity in human fibroblasts infected with luciferase-tagged highly-passaged laboratory adapted strain (Towne), and a clinical CMV isolate. Compounds were evaluated for CMV inhibition and cytotoxicity.


Artemisinin dimers effectively inhibited CMV replication in human foreskin fibroblasts and human embryonic lung fibroblasts (EC(50) for dimer sulfone carbamate and dimer primary alcohol 0.06+/-0.00 microM and 0.15+/-0.02 microM respectively, in human foreskin fibroblasts) with no cytotxicity at concentrations required for complete CMV inhibition. All four artemisinin monomers (artemisinin, artesunate, artemether and artefanilide) shared a similar degree of CMV inhibition amongst themselves (in microM concentrations) which was significantly less than the inhibition achieved with artemisinin dimers (P<0.0001). Similar to monomers, inhibition of CMV with artemisinin dimers appeared early in the virus life cycle as reflected by decreased expression of the immediate early (IE1) protein.


Artemisinin dimers are potent and non-cytotoxic inhibitors of CMV replication. These compounds should be studied as potential therapeutic agents for the treatment of CMV infection in humans.

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