A newly synthesized pyrimidine analog, 2'-fluoro-5-iodo-aracytosine (FIAC), suppressed by 90% the replication of various strains of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 at concentrations of 0.0025 to 0.0126 microM. Cytotoxicity was minimal, as determined by trypan blue dye exclusion with norman Vero, WI-38, and NC-37 cell proliferation; the 50% inhibitory dose was 4 to 10 microM in a 4-day assay. When compared with other antiviral drugs, FIAC was active at much lower concentrations than arabinosylcytosine, iododeoxyuridine, and arabinosyladenine. It was slightly more active against herpes simplex virus type 1 than acycloquanosine and slightly more toxic to normal cells. FIAC was about 8,000 times more active against the replication of wild-type herpes simplex virus type 1 than against a mutant strain lacking the expression of virus-specified thymidine kinase. Since FIAC appears to be preferentially phosphorylated by the viral enzyme, this is probably responsible, at least in part, for the selectivity of its antiviral actions. Although FIAC appears to be an arabinosylcytosine analog, its antiviral activity was not reversed by deoxycytidine. The minimal cytotoxicity exhibited by FIAC for normal cells, however, was reversed by equimolar concentrations of deoxycytidine. Thymidine, which reversed the antiviral activity, was effective only when used in great excess.