Applied and environmental microbiology

Mechanisms of antiviral action of plant antimicrobials against murine norovirus.

PMID 24907316


Numerous plant compounds have antibacterial or antiviral properties; however, limited research has been conducted with nonenveloped viruses. The efficacies of allspice oil, lemongrass oil, and citral were evaluated against the nonenveloped murine norovirus (MNV), a human norovirus surrogate. The antiviral mechanisms of action were also examined using an RNase I protection assay, a host cell binding assay, and transmission electron microscopy. All three antimicrobials produced significant reductions (P ≤ 0.05) in viral infectivity within 6 h of exposure (0.90 log10 to 1.88 log10). After 24 h, the reductions were 2.74, 3.00, and 3.41 log10 for lemongrass oil, citral, and allspice oil, respectively. The antiviral effect of allspice oil was both time and concentration dependent; the effects of lemongrass oil and citral were time dependent. Based on the RNase I assay, allspice oil appeared to act directly upon the viral capsid and RNA. The capsids enlarged from ≤ 35 nm to up to 75 nm following treatment. MNV adsorption to host cells was not significantly affected. Alternatively, the capsid remained intact following exposure to lemongrass oil and citral, which appeared to coat the capsid, causing nonspecific and nonproductive binding to host cells that did not lead to successful infection. Such contrasting effects between allspice oil and both lemongrass oil and citral suggest that though different plant compounds may yield similar reductions in virus infectivity, the mechanisms of inactivation may be highly varied and specific to the antimicrobial. This study demonstrates the antiviral properties of allspice oil, lemongrass oil, and citral against MNV and thus indicates their potential as natural food and surface sanitizers to control noroviruses.