Macrolides are a large group of antibiotics characterised by the presence of a macro-lactone ring of variable size. The prototype of macrolide antibiotics, erythromycin was first produced by and associated species more than half a century ago; other related drugs were developed. These drugs have been shown to have several pharmacological properties: in addition to their antibiotic activity, they possess some anti-inflammatory properties and have been also considered against non-bacterial infections. In this review, we analysed the available clinical evidences regarding the potential anti-viral activity of macrolides, by focusing on erythromycin, clarithromycin and azithromycin. Overall, there is no significant evidences so far that macrolides might have a direct benefit on most of viral infections considered in this review (RSV, Influenza, coronaviruses, Ebola and Zika viruses). However, their clinical benefit cannot be ruled out without further and focused clinical studies. Macrolides may improve the clinical course of viral respiratory infections somehow, at least through indirect mechanisms relying on some and variable anti-inflammatory and/or immunomodulatory effects, in addition to their well-known antibacterial activity.
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