J Antibiot (Tokyo)

. 2019 Oct;72(10):759-768. doi: 10.1038/s41429-019-0204-x. Epub 2019 Jul 12.

Azithromycin, a 15-membered Macrolide Antibiotic, Inhibits Influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 Virus Infection by Interfering With Virus Internalization Process

Dat Huu Tran 1 2Ryuichi Sugamata 1 2 3Tomoyasu Hirose 4Shoichi Suzuki 1 2 3Yoshihiko Noguchi 4Akihiro Sugawara 4 5Fuyu Ito 2Tomoko Yamamoto 2Shoji Kawachi 2 3Kiyoko S Akagawa 4Satoshi Ōmura 4Toshiaki Sunazuka 4Naoki Ito 6Masakazu Mimaki 6Kazuo Suzuki 7 8 9Affiliations expand


The pandemic influenza 2009 (A(H1N1)pdm09) virus currently causes seasonal and annual epidemic outbreaks. The widespread use of anti-influenza drugs such as neuraminidase and matrix protein 2 (M2) channel inhibitors has resulted in the emergence of drug-resistant influenza viruses. In this study, we aimed to determine the anti-influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus activity of azithromycin, a re-positioned macrolide antibiotic with potential as a new anti-influenza candidate, and to elucidate its underlying mechanisms of action. We performed in vitro and in vivo studies to address this. Our in vitro approaches indicated that progeny virus replication was remarkably inhibited by treating viruses with azithromycin before infection; however, azithromycin administration after infection did not affect this process. We next investigated the steps inhibited by azithromycin during virus invasion. Azithromycin did not affect attachment of viruses onto the cell surface, but blocked internalization into host cells during the early phase of infection. We further demonstrated that azithromycin targeted newly budded progeny virus from the host cells and inactivated their endocytic activity. This unique inhibitory mechanism has not been observed for other anti-influenza drugs, indicating the potential activity of azithromycin before and after influenza virus infection. Considering these in vitro observations, we administered azithromycin intranasally to mice infected with A(H1N1)pdm09 virus. Single intranasal azithromycin treatment successfully reduced viral load in the lungs and relieved hypothermia, which was induced by infection. Our findings indicate the possibility that azithromycin could be an effective macrolide for the treatment of human influenza.