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Cell Discov. 2018 Jun 5;4:31. doi: 10.1038/s41421-018-0034-1. eCollection 2018.

Emetine inhibits Zika and Ebola virus infections through two molecular mechanisms: inhibiting viral replication and decreasing viral entry.

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1National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, 9800 Medical Center Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892 USA.
2Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306 USA.
3Development, Aging and Regeneration Program, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037 USA.
4Special Pathogens Program, National Microbiology Laboratory, Public Health Agency of Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3E 3R2 Canada.
5Department of Biomedical Sciences, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306 USA.
6Department of Pharmacology & Molecular Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD USA.
7Department of Microbiology and Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY 10029 USA.
8Department of Medicine, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33136 USA.
9Department of Neuroscience and Mahoney Institute for Neurosciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104 USA.
10Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3E 0J9 Canada.
Contributed equally


The re-emergence of Zika virus (ZIKV) and Ebola virus (EBOV) poses serious and continued threats to the global public health. Effective therapeutics for these maladies is an unmet need. Here, we show that emetine, an anti-protozoal agent, potently inhibits ZIKV and EBOV infection with a low nanomolar half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) in vitro and potent activity in vivo. Two mechanisms of action for emetine are identified: the inhibition of ZIKV NS5 polymerase activity and disruption of lysosomal function. Emetine also inhibits EBOV entry. Cephaeline, a desmethyl analog of emetine, which may be better tolerated in patients than emetine, exhibits a similar efficacy against both ZIKV and EBOV infections. Hence, emetine and cephaeline offer pharmaceutical therapies against both ZIKV and EBOV infection.

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