Novel therapeutic options are urgently needed to improve global treatment of virus infections. Herbal products with confirmed clinical safety features are attractive starting material for the identification of new antiviral activities. Here we demonstrate that Cistus incanus (Ci) herbal products inhibit human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in vitro. Ci extract inhibited clinical HIV-1 and HIV-2 isolates, and, importantly, a virus isolate with multiple drug resistances, confirming broad anti-HIV activity. Antiviral activity was highly selective for virus particles, preventing primary attachment of the virus to the cell surface and viral envelope proteins from binding to heparin. Bioassay-guided fractionation indicated that Ci extract contains numerous antiviral compounds and therefore has favorably low propensity to induce virus resistance.
Indeed, no resistant viruses emerged during 24 weeks of continuous propagation of the virus in the presence of Ci extracts. Finally, Ci extracts also inhibited infection by virus particles pseudotyped with Ebola and Marburg virus envelope proteins, indicating that antiviral activity of Ci extract extends to emerging viral pathogens. These results demonstrate that Ci extracts show potent and broad in vitro antiviral activity against viruses that cause life-threatening diseases in humans and are promising sources of agents that target virus particles.