Affiliation: Molecular Targets Development Program, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Building 1052, Room 121, Frederick, Maryland 21702-1201, USA.
Limitations in our current antiviral treatment options and the continuing emergence of new pathogenic viruses have contributed to a growing need for new and effective chemotherapeutic agents to treat viral diseases. The marine environment provides a rich source of chemical diversity for the screening and identification of new compounds with desirable antiviral properties. Many of the new and structurally distinct metabolites that have been found in marine algae, invertebrate animals, and microorganisms have pronounced biological activities. Antiviral testing has revealed numerous compounds from structural classes including terpenoids, steroids, fatty acid derivatives, alkaloids, and peptides that potently inhibit both RNA and DNA viruses. Much of the recent antiviral research has focused on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the enzymes specific to this virus. Regardless of the specific assay system or screening approach that has been employed, a large number of structurally unique antiviral compounds from a broad taxonomic distribution of marine organisms have been identified. It is clear that marine natural products constitute a valuable chemical resource for the discovery of lead compounds that may aid in the development of new antiviral therapies.