The activation of ERK and p38 signal cascade in host cells has been demonstrated to be essential for picornavirus enterovirus 71 (EV71) replication and up-regulation of virus-induced cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2)/prostaglandins E2 (PGE2) expression. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of sorafenib, a clinically approved anti-cancer multi-targeted kinase inhibitor, on the propagation and pathogenesis of EV71, with a view to its possible mechanism and potential use in the design of therapy regimes for Hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) patients with life threatening neurological complications. In this study, non-toxic concentrations of sorafenib were shown to inhibit the yield of infectious progeny EV71 (clinical BC08 strain) by about 90% in three different cell types. A similar inhibitory effect of sorafenib was observed on the synthesis of both viral genomic RNA and the VP1 protein. Interestingly, sorafenib exerted obvious inhibition of the EV71 internal ribosomal entry site (IRES)-mediated translation, the first step in picornavirus replication, by linking it to a firefly luciferase reporter gene. Sorafenib was also able to prevent both EV71-induced CPE and the activation of ERK and p38, which contributes to up-regulation COX-2/PGE2 expression induced by the virus. Overall, this study shows that sorafenib strongly inhibits EV71 replication at least in part by regulating viral IRES-dependent translation of viral proteins, indicating a novel potential strategy for the treatment of HFMD patients with severe neurological complications. To our knowledge, this is the first report that investigates the mechanism by which sorafenib inhibits EV71 replication.