Background and Objective: Infectious diseases are amongst the leading causes of death
in the world and central nervous system infections produced by viruses may either be fatal or generate
a wide range of symptoms that affect global human health. Most antiviral plants contain active
phytoconstituents such as alkaloids, flavonoids, and polyphenols, some of which play an important
antiviral role. Herein, we present a background to viral central nervous system (CNS) infections,
followed by a review of medicinal plants and bioactive compounds that are effective
against viral pathogens in CNS infections.
Methods: A comprehensive literature search was conducted on scientific databases including:
PubMed, Scopus, Google Scholar, and Web of Science. The relevant keywords used as search
terms were: “myelitis”, “encephalitis”, “meningitis”, “meningoencephalitis”, “encephalomyelitis”,
“central nervous system”, “brain”, “spinal cord”, “infection”, “virus”, “medicinal plants”, and “biological
Results: The most significant viruses involved in central nervous system infections are: Herpes
Simplex Virus (HSV), Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV), West Nile Virus (WNV), Enterovirus 71
(EV71), Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV), and Dengue Virus (DENV). The inhibitory activity of
medicinal plants against CNS viruses is mostly active through prevention of viral binding to cell
membranes, blocking viral genome replication, prevention of viral protein expression, scavenging
reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), and reduction of plaque formation.
Conclusion: Due to the increased resistance of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, and parasites) to
antimicrobial therapies, alternative treatments, especially using plant sources and their bioactive
constituents, appear to be more fruitful.