Antipyretic and toxin-eliminating traditional Chinese herbs are believed to possess antiviral activity. In this study, we screened extracts of 22 herbs for activity against enterovirus 71 (EV71). We found that only extracts of Houttuynia cordata Thunb. could neutralize EV71-induced cytopathic effects in Vero cells. The 50% inhibitory concentration of H. cordata extract for EV71 was 125.92 ± 27.84 μg/ml. Antiviral screening of herb extracts was also conducted on 3 genotypes of EV71, coxsackievirus A16 and echovirus 9. H. cordata extract had the highest activity against genotype A of EV71. A plaque reduction assay showed that H. cordata extract significantly reduced plaque formation. Viral protein expression, viral RNA synthesis and virus-induced caspase 3 activation were inhibited in the presence of H. cordata extract, suggesting that it affected apoptotic processes in EV71-infected Vero cells by inhibiting viral replication. The antiviral activity of H. cordata extract was greater in cells pretreated with extract than those treated after infection. We conclude that H. cordata extract has antiviral activity, and it offers a potential to develop a new anti-EV71 agent.
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