Erythrosin B is a potent and broad-spectrum orthosteric inhibitor of the flavivirus NS2B-NS3 protease

Zhong Li, Srilatha Sakamuru, Ruili Huang, Matthew Brecher, Cheri A. Koetzner, Jing Zhang, Haiying Chen, Cheng feng Qin, Qing Yu Zhang, Jia Zhou, Laura D. Kramer, Menghang Xia, Hongmin Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Many flaviviruses, such as Zika virus (ZIKV), Dengue virus (DENV1-4) and yellow fever virus (YFV), are significant human pathogens. Infection with ZIKV, an emerging mosquito-borne flavivirus, is associated with increased risk of microcephaly in newborns and Guillain-Barré syndrome and other complications in adults. Currently, specific therapy does not exist for any flavivirus infections. In this study, we found that erythrosin B, an FDA-approved food additive, is a potent inhibitor for flaviviruses, including ZIKV and DENV2. Erythrosin B was found to inhibit the DENV2 and ZIKV NS2B-NS3 proteases with IC50 in low micromolar range, via a non-competitive mechanism. Erythrosin B can significantly reduce titers of representative flaviviruses, DENV2, ZIKV, YFV, JEV, and WNV, with micromolar potency and with excellent cytotoxicity profile. Erythrosin B can also inhibit ZIKV replication in ZIKV-relevant human placental and neural progenitor cells. As a pregnancy category B food additive, erythrosin B may represent a promising and easily developed therapy for management of infections by ZIKV and other flaviviruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-225
Number of pages9
JournalAntiviral research
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Antiviral
  • Dengue virus
  • Erythrosin B
  • Flavivirus
  • Protease inhibitor
  • Zika virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Virology


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