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PLoS One. 2017 Feb 10;12(2):e0171936. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171936. eCollection 2017.

Inhibition of influenza A virus infection by ginsenosides.

Dong W1, Farooqui A1,2,3, Leon AJ1,2, Kelvin DJ1,2,3,4,5.

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Division of Immunology, International Institute of Infection and Immunity, University Health Network & Shantou University Medical College, Shantou, China.
Division of Experimental Therapeutics, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Immunopathology, Shantou, China.
Institute of Medical Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Deptartment of Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Influenza viruses cause mild to severe respiratory infections in humans. Due to efficient means of transmission, the viruses infect human population on a large scale. Apart from vaccines, antiviral drugs are used to control infection; neuraminidase inhibitors are thought to be the first choice of treatment, particularly for severe cases. Rapidly evolving and emerging influenza viruses with increased frequency of viral resistance to these drugs stress the need to explore novel antiviral compounds. In this study, we investigated antiviral activity of ginseng extract and ginsenosides, the ginseng-derived triterpene and saponin compounds, against 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus in vitro and in vivo. Our data showed that treatment of mice with ginsenosides protected the animals from lethal 2009 pandemic H1N1 infection and lowered viral titers in animal lungs. Mechanistic studies revealed that ginsenosides interact with viral hemagglutinin protein and prevent the attachment of virus with α 2-3' sialic acid receptors present on host cell surfaces. The interference in the viral attachment process subsequently minimizes viral entry into the cells and decreases the severity of the viral infection. We also describe that sugar moieties present in ginsenosides are indispensible for their attachment with viral HA protein. On the basis of our observations, we can say that ginsenosides are promising candidates for the development of antiviral drugs for influenza viruses.

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