Although a number of sulfated polysaccharides have been shown to inhibit infection of cells by herpes simplex virus (HSV), little is known about their effects on the cell-to-cell spread of the virus. These compounds act by inhibiting the virus binding to cells, and their antiviral potencies usually increase with increasing molecular weight and sulfation density. We report that the low molecular weight HS-mimetic, PI-88, which is a mixture of highly sulfated mannose-containing di- to hexa-saccharides, inhibited HSV infection of cells and cell-to-cell spread of HSV-1 and HSV-2. Compared to a relatively large heparin polysaccharide, PI-88 demonstrated weaker inhibition of HSV infectivity but more efficient reduction of cell-to-cell spread of HSV. A tetrasaccharide fraction of PI-88 was the minimum fragment necessary to inhibit HSV-1 infectivity, while a trisaccharide was sufficient to reduce cell-to-cell spread. A reduction in HSV lateral spread was also observed in cells incubated with another low molecular weight compound, pentosan polysulfate but not with much larger polysaccharide chondroitin sulfate E. Some differences as regards the effects of PI-88, heparin, protamine, poly-l-lysine and sodium chlorate on intercellular spread of HSV-1 and HSV-2 were found. We conclude that structurally different sulfated oligosaccharides are preferred for inhibition of HSV infectivity and the cell-to-cell spread. The latter was efficiently inhibited by a relatively small but densely sulfated PI-88 oligosaccharide, very likely due to the capability of the compound to access the narrow intercellular space.