Biochemical and biophysical research communications

Anti-HCV activity of the Chinese medicinal fungus Cordyceps militaris.

PMID 24726408


Persistent hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection causes chronic liver diseases and is a global health problem. Although the sustained virologic response rate in the treatment of genotype 1 using new triple therapy (pegylated-interferon, ribavirin, and telaprevir/boceprevir) has been improved by more than 70%, several severe side effects such as skin rash/ageusia and advanced anemia have become a problem. Under these circumstances, a new type of anti-HCV oral drug with few side effects is needed. Our recently developed HCV drug assay systems, including the HuH-7 cell line-derived OR6 and AH1R, and the Li23 cell line-derived ORL8 and ORL11, allow genome-length HCV RNAs (several strains of genotype 1b) encoding renilla luciferase to replicate efficiently. Using these systems as anti-HCV candidates, we have identified numerous existing medicines that can be used against HCV with few side effects, such as statins and teprenon. To obtain additional anti-HCV candidates, we evaluated a number of oral health supplements, and found that the capsule but not the liquid form of Cordyceps militaris (CM) (Ascomycotinanorth, North Chinese caterpillar fungus), which is used as a Chinese herbal medicine, exhibited moderate anti-HCV activity. In combination with interferon-α or ribavirin, CM exhibited an additive inhibitory effect. Among the main components of CM, cordycepin, but not ergosterol, contributed to the anti-HCV activity of CM. In consideration of all these results, we suggest that CM would be useful as an oral anti-HCV agent in combination with interferon-α and/or ribavirin.