Dengue virus is an arthropod-borne virus that has developed into a prominent global health threat in recent decades. The main causative agent of dengue fever, the virus infects an estimated 390 million individuals across the globe each year. Despite the sharply increasing social and economic burden on global society caused by the disease, there is still a glaring lack of effective therapeutics against DENV. In this study, betulinic acid, a naturally occurring pentacyclic triterpenoid was established as an inhibitor of DENV infection in vitro. Time-course studies revealed that betulinic acid inhibits a post-entry stage of the DENV replication cycle and subsequent analyses also showed that the compound is able to inhibit viral RNA synthesis and protein production. Betulinic acid also demonstrated antiviral efficacy against other serotypes of DENV, as well as against other mosquito-borne RNA viruses such as Zika virus and Chikungunya virus, which are commonly found co-circulating together with DENV. As such, betulinic acid may serve as a valuable starting point for the development of antivirals to combat potential DENV outbreaks, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions which make up a large majority of documented infections.
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