Antiviral activity of metal chelates of caffeic acid and similar compounds towards herpes simplex, VSV-Ebola pseudotyped and vaccinia viruses

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Organic compounds with a caffeoyl moiety (e.g. caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid, chicoric acid, etc.) have antiviral properties towards herpes simplex (HSV), influenza and immunodeficiency viruses (HIV). This study evaluated the HSV antiviral properties of caffeic acid when paired with a variety of metal and other inorganic ions. The results demonstrated that the antiviral activity of caffeic acid increased upwards of 100-fold by the addition of cations, such as Fe3+, and anionic molecules, such as molybdate and phosphate. Cellular toxicity tests of the caffeic acid chelates showed that they have low toxicities with selectivity indices (TD50/EC50) for Fe3+, MoO4 2−, and PO4 3− chelates being 1700, >540, and >30, respectively. Caffeic acid paired with Fe3+ was tested against eight strains of viruses, including those from different families. The caffeic acid chelates were mostly effective against HSV1 and HSV2, but they also had moderate activity against vaccinia virus and a VSV-Ebola pseudotyped virus. All the viruses that were strongly impacted by the caffeic chelates require heparan sulfate proteoglycans for cellular attachment, so it is likely that caffeic chelates target and interfere with this mechanism. Since the caffeic acid chelates target an extra-cellular process, they might be able to be combined with existing medications, such as acyclovir, that target an intracellular process to achieve greater viral control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-150
Number of pages8
JournalAntiviral Research
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018



  • Caffeic acid
  • Chelation
  • Chicoric acid
  • HSV1
  • Rosmarinic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Virology

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