Chloro derivatives of benzimidazole were found to be 2 to 3 times more active than corresponding methyl derivatives in causing inhibition of Lee virus multiplication in chorioallantoic membrane cultures in vitro. The most active benzimidazole derivative thus far tested is 5,6-dichloro-1-ß-D-ribofuranosylbenzimidazole (DRB); it caused 75 per cent inhibition of Lee virus multiplication in membrane cultures at a concentration of 0.38 x 10–4 M. On the other hand, 5,6-dimethyl-1-alpha;-D-ribofuranosylbenzimidazole, the moiety present in vitamin B12, failed to inhibit Lee virus multiplication at a concentration of 35 x 10–4 M. Other N-glycosides of 5,6-dichlorobenzimidazole were considerably less active than DRB.
In single cycle experiments, the degree of inhibition of Lee virus multiplication by DRB in membrane cultures was not dependent on the amount of virus in the inoculum. This compound did not inactivate the infectivity of extracellular Lee virus, had no effect on virus-erythrocyte interaction, did not interfere with the adsorption of the virus by the host tissue, nor affect the release of newly formed virus from the membrane. The inhibitory effect of DRB on Lee virus multiplication, in contrast to that of 2,5-dimethylbenzimidazole, persisted after transfer of infected membranes into fresh culture medium not containing the compound. Both DRB and the 2,5-dimethyl compound caused 99 per cent inhibition of Lee virus multiplication without affecting oxygen uptake of the membrane. Tissue proliferation of membrane pieces in roller tube culture was not significantly affected by DRB at inhibitory concentration, whereas at equivalent concentration the 2,5-dimethyl compound did restrict cellular growth. At higher concentrations, both compounds caused retardation of cell proliferation. This effect was reversible on removal of either compound from the medium. The multiplication of several strains of influenza A and B viruses, i.e. Lee, MB, PR8, and FM1, was inhibited to the same degree by each of the two compounds; DRB was 35 times more active than the 2,5-dimethyl compound relative to each of the strains.
DRB caused inhibition of Lee virus multiplication in intact embryonated chicken eggs and in mice without causing significant signs of toxicity in either host. Some of the implications of these findings are discussed in relation to the mechanism of the inhibition of influenza virus multiplication.