This study investigated the effect of lemongrass essential oil (LGEO) on the infectivity and viral replication of norovirus. Murine norovirus 1 (MNV-1), a surrogate of human norovirus, was preincubated with LGEO and then used to infect RAW 264.7 cells in a plaque reduction assay. LGEO exhibited a significant reduction in MNV-1 plaque formation in both time- and dose-dependent manners. The quantification of viral genome by quantitative real-time PCR showed similar results in line with those of the plaque reduction assay. It was revealed that citral, a single compound in LGEO, showed dramatic reduction in MNV-1 infectivity (−73.09% when using a treatment of 0.02%, v/v). The inhibitory activity of LGEO on viral replication was further investigated in HG23 cells that harbored a human norovirus replicon. LGEO treatment significantly reduced viral replication in HG23 cells, which suggests that LGEO may have dual inhibitory activities that inactivate viral coat proteins required for viral infection and suppress norovirus genome replication in host cells. In animal experiments, oral administration of murine norovirus preincubated with LGEO significantly suppressed virus infectivity in vivo. Collectively, these results suggest that LGEO, in particular the LGEO component citral, inactivates the norovirus and its subsequent replication in host cells. Thus, LGEO shows promise as a method of inhibiting norovirus within the food industry.

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