The development and use of topical microbicides potentially offers an additional strategy to reduce the spread of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Carbohydrate-binding agents (CBAs) that show specificity for high mannose carbohydrates on the surface of the heavily glycosylated envelope of HIV are endowed with potent anti-HIV activity. In fact, a number of algal lectins such as cyanovirin-N, microvirin, microcystis viridis lectin, scytovirin, Oscillatoria agardhii
agglutinin and griffithsin are considered as potential microbicide candidates to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV through topical applications. They not only inhibit infection of cells by cell-free virus but they can also efficiently prevent virus transmission from virus-infected cells to uninfected CD4+
target T-lymphocytes and DC-SIGN-directed capture of HIV-1 and transmission to CD4+
T lymphocytes. This review focuses on the structural properties and carbohydrate specificity of these algal lectins, their antiviral activity against HIV and several other enveloped viruses, their safety profile and viral resistance patterns.