Red blood cells (RBC) may act as selective carriers of drugs to macrophages, an important reservoir of viruses such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). We therefore assessed the incorporation of 9-(2-phosphonylmethoxyethyl)adenine (PMEA), a potent inhibitor of HIV and HSV-1) into RBC, its delivery to macrophages and its activity against HIV or HSV-1. Loading of PMEA in artificially aged opsonized RBC affords significant levels of intracellular PMEA. RBC metabolize PMEA to its active congener PMEA-diphosphate, although with low efficiency. Exposure of macrophages to RBC-encapsulated PMEA inhibits the replication of both HIV and HSV-1 (about 90% inhibition at the highest RBC:macrophages ratios) even if RBC were removed before virus challenge. By contrast, the antiviral activity of free PMEA removed before virus challenge was irrelevant at concentrations up to 150-fold higher than the 50% effective concentration (EC50). Finally, the antiviral effect of RBC-encapsulated PMEA correlates with PMEA levels in macrophages about 500-fold higher than those achieved by free PMEA (at concentrations 10-fold higher than the EC50). The efficacy of RBC-mediated delivery to macrophages of PMEA (and perhaps of compounds with shorter intracellular half-lives) warrants further studies in infectious diseases involving phagocytizing cells as main targets of the pathogen.