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J Immunol. 1998 Apr 1;160(7):3487-93.

Ribavirin inhibits viral-induced macrophage production of TNF, IL-1, the procoagulant fgl2 prothrombinase and preserves Th1 cytokine production but inhibits Th2 cytokine response.

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  • 1Multiogran Transplant Program, Department of Medicine, Toronto Hospital, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Ribavirin, a synthetic guanosine analogue, possesses a broad spectrum of activity against DNA and RNA viruses. It has been previously shown to attenuate the course of fulminant hepatitis in mice produced by murine hepatitis virus strain 3. We therefore studied the effects of ribavirin on murine hepatitis virus strain 3 replication, macrophage production of proinflammatory mediators including TNF, IL-1, and the procoagulant activity (PCA), fgl2 prothrombinase; and Th1/Th2 cytokine production. Although ribavirin had inhibitory effects on viral replication (<1 log), even at high concentrations complete eradication of the virus was not seen. In contrast, at physiologic concentrations (up to 500 microg/ml), ribavirin markedly reduced viral-induced parameters of macrophage activation. With ribavirin treatment, the concentrations of PCA, TNF-alpha and IL-1beta all decreased to basal concentrations: PCA from 941 +/- 80 to 34 +/- 11 mU/10(6) cells; TNF-alpha from 10.73 +/- 2.15 to 2.74 +/- 0.93 ng/ml; and IL-1beta from 155.91 +/- 22.62 to 5.74 +/- 0.70 pg/ml. The inhibitory effects of ribavirin were at the level of gene transcription as evidenced by Northern analysis. Both in vitro and in vivo, ribavirin inhibited the production of IL-4 by Th2 cells, whereas it did not diminish the production of IFN-gamma in Th1 cells. In contrast, ribavirin had no inhibitory effect on TNF-alpha and IL-1beta production in LPS-stimulated macrophages. These results suggest that the beneficial effects of ribavirin are mediated by inhibition of induction of macrophage proinflammatory cytokines and Th2 cytokines while preserving Th1 cytokines.

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