Beneficial actions of melatonin in the management of viral infections: a new use for this “molecular handyman”?


R. J. Reiter, Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, UT Health Science Center, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, Texas 78229, USA.



Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) is a multifunctional signaling molecule that has a variety of important functions. Numerous clinical trials have examined the therapeutic usefulness of melatonin in different fields of medicine. Clinical trials have shown that melatonin is efficient in preventing cell damage under acute (sepsis, asphyxia in newborns) and chronic states (metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, inflammation, aging). The beneficial effects of melatonin can be explained by its properties as a potent antioxidant and antioxidant enzyme inducer, a regulator of apoptosis and a stimulator of immune functions. These effects support the use of melatonin in viral infections, which are often associated with inflammatory injury and increases in oxidative stress. In fact, melatonin has been used recently to treat several viral infections, which are summarized in this review. The role of melatonin in infections is also discussed herein. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.