As part of a program to identify new compounds that have activity against orthopoxviruses, a number of 4′-thionucleosides were synthesized and evaluated for their efficacies against vaccinia and cowpox viruses. Seven compounds that were active at about 1 μM against both viruses in human cells but that did not have significant toxicity were identified. The 5-iodo analog, 1-(2-deoxy-4-thio-β-D-ribofuranosyl)-5-iodouracil (4′-thioIDU), was selected as a representative molecule; and this compound also inhibited viral DNA synthesis at less than 1 μM but only partially inhibited the replication of a recombinant vaccinia virus that lacked a thymidine kinase. This compound retained complete activity against cidofovir- and ST-246-resistant mutants. To determine if this analog had activity in an animal model, mice were infected intranasally with vaccinia or cowpox virus and treatment with 4′-thioIDU was given intraperitoneally or orally twice daily at 50, 15, 5, or 1.5 mg/kg of body weight beginning at 24 to 120 h postinfection and was continued for 5 days. Almost complete protection (87%) was observed when treatment with 1.5 mg/kg was begun at 72 h postinfection, and significant protection (73%) was still obtained when treatment with 5 mg/kg was initiated at 96 h. Virus titers in the liver, spleen, and kidney were reduced by about 4 log10 units and about 2 log10 units in mice infected with vaccinia virus and cowpox virus, respectively. These results indicate that 4′-thioIDU is a potent, nontoxic inhibitor of orthopoxvirus replication in cell culture and experimental animal infections and suggest that it may have potential for use in the treatment of orthopoxvirus infections in animals and humans. Copyright © 2009, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.