Approximately 142 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Although potent direct acting antivirals are available, high costs limit access to treatment. Chronic hepatitis C virus infection remains a major cause of orthotopic liver transplantation. Moreover, re-infection of the graft occurs regularly. Antivirals derived from natural sources might be an alternative and cost-effective option to complement therapy regimens for global control of hepatitis C virus infection.
We tested the antiviral properties of a mixture of different Chinese herbs/roots named Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan (ZBDHW) and its individual components on HCV. One of the ZBDHW components, Penta-O-Galloyl-Glucose (PGG), was further analyzed for its mode of action in vitro, its antiviral activity in primary human hepatocytes as well as for its bioavailability and hepatotoxicity in mice.
ZBDHW, its component Cortex Moutan and the compound PGG efficiently block entry of HCV of all major genotypes and also of the related flavivirus Zika virus. PGG does not disrupt HCV virion integrity and acts primarily during virus attachment. PGG shows an additive effect when combined with the well characterized HCV inhibitor Daclatasvir. Analysis of bioavailability in mice revealed plasma levels above tissue culture IC50 after a single intraperitoneal injection.
In conclusion, PGG is a pangenotypic HCV entry inhibitor with high bioavailability. The low cost and wide availability of this compound make it a promising candidate for HCV combination therapies, and also emerging human pathogenic flaviviruses like ZIKV.