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   Aug 08

Panel probes herbal cure claims for Ebola virus, others

• Scientists identify antiviral plants

• Why bitter kola can stop disease

A Scientific Committee on Verification of Herbal Cure Claims set up last year by the National Agency for Food, Drug and Control (NAFDAC) has begun probe of herbal cure claims for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes.

THERE is no cure for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), says the World Health Organisation (WHO). But local studies by Nigerian scientists and several foreign researches indicate that plants or rather herbal medicine hold the hope for a globally accepted cure for EVB.

Indeed, researchers have identified asthma herb (Euphorbia hirta), pawpaw (Carica papaya), neem tree (Azadiratcha indica), lemon grass (Cymbopogum citratus), bitter melon (Momordica charantia) and guava (Psidium guajava) extracts as potential cures for viral infections.

In fact a member of the committee inaugurated by the Director General of the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dr. Paul Orhii, to champion the development of herbal medicine through scientific validation of all the cure claims, Dr. Ben Amodu, says he has the cure for EVD.

Amodu, a pharmacist, and his team of researchers from Halamin Herbal centre, 10 George Innih Crescent, Apo District, Abuja and Department of Histopathology and Cytology, Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) Jos, Plateau State, found that the poly herbal preparations strengthen the immune system through many cytokines and chemokines regulations.

The pharmacist said his team is a step closer to a universally accepted cure for Ebola virus, dengue fever and leishmaniasis and that the herbal preparation has also been successfully used, in clinical studies, to treat hepatitis B and C, cancer, diabetes and tuberculosis.

Amodu told The Guardian yesterday: “Base on the fact that our products have been peer reviewed for denque fever and other similar viral fever and published and currently the combination of our products SAABMAL, DAABS 2 & SAAAB are currently undergoing peer review for EVD for publications. Our products have lots of positive effects on Ebola virus.”

NAFDAC DG also confirmed to The Guardian yesterday that Amodu has samples of hispoly herbal preparations for the treatment of EVD to the Scientific Committee on Verification of Herbal Cure Claims.

Also, the executive director of the Bio-resources Development and Conservation Programme, Prof. Maurice Iwu, has given reasons why bitter kola (Garcinia kola) can stop EVD. Iwu, a professor of Pharmacognosy from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) said that an extract derived from the seeds of bitter kola could inhibit Ebola virus in cell culture at non-toxic concentrations.

Botanically known as Garcinia kola, bitter kola belongs to the plant family Guttifereae. In Nigeria it is called oje in Bokyi, edun or efiari in Efik, efrie in Ejagham-Ekin, cida goro in Hausa, efiat in Ibibio, emiale in Icheve, igoligo in Idoma, aku-ilu or ugolo in Ibo, akaan in Ijo-Izon, okain in Isekiri, and orogbo in Yoruba.

The results of the study were first presented in 1999 at the 16th International Botanic Congress in St Louis, Missouri, United States. The report also published by the BBC indicated that ‘bitter cola (Garcinia kola), a plant widely used in traditional African medicine may contain a compound that is effective against Ebola virus disease.’

Iwu and his colleagues identified Garcinia kola as a possible source of drugs using the method called Corbel (clinical observation-based ethnomedical lead).

Extracts from Garcinia kola seeds were tested against many complex viral diseases. The active compound, now known to be a bioflavonoid, was found to be active against a wide range of viruses including the influenza virus.

Iwu told The Guardian recently: “The active substance is an extract from bitter kola called Kolaviron, which contains bioflavonoids and prenylated xanthones and benzophenones.

“Work was done while a scientist at the Division of Experimental Therapeutics of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research Washington DC in collaboration with Southern Research Institute (SRI).

“But no follow up. Others at Ibadan and other Nigerian universities have done follow-up work on Kolaviron.”

Phytochemical screening of the extracts of bitter kola revealed the presence of some bioactive components like alkaloids, saponins, tannins, anthraquinones and cardiac glycosides. These components determine the antibacterial activity of the seed and leaf extracts.

The results from the study published in Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research by medical doctors, pharmacists and nurses at Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH) provides scientific evidence that Garcinia kola has the capability of inhibiting the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms; thus it will be useful in tropical medicine for the treatment of microbial infections.

The herbal preparations that have been identified to provide the elusive cure for Ebola virus disease, Dengue fever and Leishmaniasis are made predominantly with bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina), bitter cola (Garcinia kola), garlic (Allium sativum), neem tree (Azadiratcha indica), guava (Psidium guajava), lemon grass (Cymbopogum citratus), water yam (Dioscorea alata), corn/maize (Zea mays), sesame (Sesamum indicatum), Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis), sugar cane, (Saccharum officinarum), and Green amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus, inine in Ibo, tete abalaye in Yoruba).

Euphorbia hirta (asthma herb) has been shown to not only to be effective in treating asthma but to possess antiviral activity against Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Amodu explained: “Dengue fever is caused by a virus named Dengue fever virus (DFV). It is transmitted by mosquitoes mostly in urban and semi-urban areas. The disease dengue presents as an acute fibrile illness with chills, headache, retro-ocular pain, body aches and arthralgia (joint pain) in more than 90 per cent of apparent cases, accompanied by nausea or vomiting and a maculopapular rash resembling measles lasting two to seven days in about 60 per cent of cases. Illness usually persists for seven days followed with fever remitting after three to five days followed by relapse (saddleback fever and pains in the bones, muscles and joints sufficiently severe to earn the epithet breakbone fever.

“Rash occurs more commonly in patients less than 14 years of age. Red palms and soles differentiate it from malaria. Complete recovery is the rule. The incubation period is five to 11 days.

“Each of these families of negative-strand RNA viruses has a similar genomic organization-Ebola is a member of Filoviridae, enveloped virus with a single stranded, unsegmented, helical negative sense RNA genome.”

Amodu said after an incubation period of five to 11 days there is a rapid onset of: fever, malaise, myalgia, severe frontal headaches. “Bradycardia and conjunctivitis occur early in disease. It progresses rapidly with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea to haematemasis and melaena. Frank haemorrhagic manifestations including petechiae, ecchymoses and uncontrollable bleeding from venepincture sites within five to seven days of onset.”

Amodu further explained: “Often a maculopapular rash appears around day five which is followed by desquamation. Death due to shock usually occurs six to nine days after onset with rates of 50 to 80 per cent for Ebola. Infection of pregnant women usually results in abortion with fatal infection of the neonate. Recovery in survivors is slow, with weight loss, prostration and amnesia for the period of acute infection.

“The filoviruses replicate in the liver and most other tissues in the body just like hepatitis and dengue fever that our supplements infused from cocktails of fruits and vegetables have proved excellently well in their treatment with little or no side effect. It is on this background that we want our supplements to be used for the treatment of Ebola virus ravaging most of the West African countries notably Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The cause of death is related to both the haemorrhagic diathesis and the increased vascular permeability that causes fluid and blood loss into the extravascular spaces, resulting in shock.

“Ebola infection in humans is linked to a strong circulating chemokines and cytokines. Although GP is a major target for an immune response, it has an external peptide domain close to the transmembrane domain that has homology to an immunosuppressive domain in retroviruses. Humoral antibodies are produced within ten to 14 days but they are usually non-neutralizing. Persistent infection has been demonstrated in convalescent patient.”

Meanwhile, the Nigerian researchers led by Amodu said that while it is being postulated that there are no specific anti-viral tablets or injections that can kill the virus, the immune system can however be stimulated by a high class concoctions infused from cocktails of fruits, barks, roots, stems etc with the major bioactive constituents of medicinal plants to kill the virus

According to the study, this high-class concoction has been scientifically formulated into capsules with different strength. One of the high-class formulations is called DAABS-2.

They wrote: “The constituents of DAABS-2 include Vernonia amygdalina, Dioscorea alata and Zea mays. The medicinal uses of the constituents of DAABS-2 are well documented in literature.

“But like most traditional medicines in Africa, little or no scientific information is available on this polyherbal component preparation that is akin to the Chinese traditional medicine (TCM) or the India Ayurvedic preparation.

“These active constituents are believed to strengthen the immune system through many cytokines and chemokines regulations. With the abundant presence of tannins, phlobatannins, flavonoids, steroids, terpenoids, saponins and cardiac glycosides, which are the most important bioactive constituents of medicinal plants, the poly herbal preparation is able to normalize appropriately all the haematological indices and improve health status dramatically.

“Vaccines are being developed against all four serotypes of dengue fever and they will definitely be the most effective way to prevent the disease. Prevention of mosquito breeding has by and large failed in most endemic countries.

“Patients are prone to dehydration hence they should drink plenty of fluids. If necessary a few days of intra-venous fluids can be administered in the form of normal saline or dextrose saline.

“This study is therefore designed to determine the clinical activities of DAABS-2- on dengue fever and to create awareness to the public and other healthcare workers on the importance of preventing the breeding site of mosquitoes.”

The study population was made of suspected cases of dengue haemorrhagic fever clients within the age bracket of zero month to 69 years, that came to seek medical attention in Halamin Chemicals Nigeria Limited Centre, Abuja from April, 2012 to February 2013.

Suspected cases comprised of clients that presented with fever and any of the following: headache, pain behind the eye and in muscles and joints enlarged lymph glands, and a maculopapular rash. Sometimes abdominal pain with vomiting and occasionally haemorrhagic symptoms.

Social-demographic data including age, sex, presenting complaints, relevant signs elicited and orthodox drugs pre-treatment were obtained from the clients.

After obtaining the relevant information and explaining to the clients the test procedures, two millilitre of blood was collected aseptically through vein puncture using sterile syringe and needle following application of tourniquet. The surface of the skin was disinfected with methylated spirit on cotton wool and allowed to dry. The blood was transferred to a plain container and allowed to clot at room temperature. The clot was dislodged and centrifuged at 1000rpm for five minutes. The serum was harvested using a Pasteur pipette and transferred into serum containers with caps and properly labeled. The test was performed immediately, unless stated otherwise in which case, the samples were kept frozen.

The Packed Cell Volume (PCV) test was done using the microhaematocrit centrifuge. The platelet count, total white blood cells count and differential, aspartate aminotranferase, blood urea and serum sodium and albumin were carried out in accordance with procedures specified by Monical Cheesbrough.

The results of the findings of dengue haemorrhagic fever clients show that nearly all age groups are affected. All age groups were infected with the disease.

The administration of the supplements lasted for 12 weeks. The clients were given the DAABS-2 supplement 1000mg twelve hourly for one month. The hemoglobin, platelets, White Blood Cells (WBC), aspartate amino transferase (AST), blood urea, serum sodium and albumin were measured before the commencement of the supplement. An AST test measures the amount of this enzyme in the blood. The measurements were further taken at four weeks interval for two consecutive times.

The researchers wrote: “There was a remarkable moderation of the haemoglobin level of 48g/dL which is a clear characteristic of dengue haemorrhagic fever, to a normal level of 12g/dL in group A clients. This remarkable moderation happened through a period of 12 weeks of the administration of DAABS-2 supplements believed to strengthen the immune system and adaptogenized the generality of the human systems.

“Another unique addendum was the general wellbeing experienced by the clients, the initial complaints of generalized pain, headache, malaise etc. previously noticed by the clients disappeared before the end of the three month. There were equally palpable moderation of the AST and total white blood cell count from 170uL to 28uL and 1.0×109 cells/L to 10.0×109cells/L respectively within the three months use of the DAABS-2 supplements.

“In group B clients that were mostly adults, it was observed among the client despite the fact that they were reactive to IgM of the dengue virus. However, there was also a remarkable moderation of all the parameters and general improvement in their health status.

“The group C clients, like the group A had an astronomical abnormalities in the Haemoglobin, aspartateaminotranferase, serum sodium, total white blood cell count, albumin and blood urea. This is a clear case of dengue haemorrhagic fever as the clients tested positive to IgG of the degue virus. Nevertheless, the clients observed complete restoration of health status even before the completion of the DAABS-2 medicaments at the twelfth weeks set for the observation. It should be noted that no such work has been carried out before, this is the first of its kind.”

Amodu said earlier study had shown that the administration of the ploy herbal preparation made predominantly with bitter leaf extracts decreased blood glucose by 90 per cent compared to the placebo treated diabetic animals respectively.

The study published in IOSR Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences is titled, “Daabs-2r: A Novel Ethnomedicinal Polyherbal Formulation For The Management Of Diabetes Mellitus.”

The researchers wrote: “This research was aimed at evaluating the efficacy of DAABS-2, a novel ethnomedicinal polyherbal formulation on Insulin Depended Diabetes mellitus and non Insulin Dependent Diabetes mellitus by using streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic laboratory animals and the result showed that the administration of 180mg/kg and 100mg/kg with the corresponding DAABS-2 extracts decreased blood glucose by 90 per cent compared to the placebo treated diabetic animals respectively.

“In summary, the present study results indicate that single i.p. injection of STZ 180mg/kg and 100mg/kg with the correspondent extracts produced no diabetes of any form, while the same i.p injection of 180mg/kg and 100mg/kg with the corresponding placebo produced type 1 or insulin dependent diabetes, however, the latter failed to produce diabetes mellitus. The severity and mortality of diabetes with STZ 180mg/kg is more in comparison to 100mg/kg. The long-term complications of diabetes mellitus and the characteristics of progressive diabetes mellitus in the group with the placebo could be studied.”

Amodu and his team of researchers have also produced herbal preparation for the management of leishmaniasis.

The study is titled “Ethnopharmacological and Pre-clinical studies on HEPATOSAAB used in the management of leishmaniasis.”

The constituents of HEPATOSAABR include: Sesamum indicatum, Vernonia amygdalina, Aloe barbadensis, Saccharum officinarum, Allium sativum, Amaranthus andcaudatus. The medicinal uses of the constituents of HEPATOSAABR are well documented in literature.

The researchers wrote: “The liver and the spleen which are the culprit organs that visceral leishmaniasis affect can be toned by some herbal extracts. One of such polyherbal formulations used for various ethnomedicinal purposes in Nigeria including the treatment of Hepatitis B and C is HEPATOSAABR.

“HEPATOSAAB, an ethnomedicinal poly herbal formulation from the stable of Halamin Herbal Centre has been found to cure Visceral Leishmaniasis which works by inducing high levels of certain cytokines to positively affect macrophage populations and up-regulates the expression of MHC class II molecules on the surface of the macrophage.

“It is clearly demonstrated that this inexpensive, simple, effective and non toxic ethnomedicinal poly herbal formulation has a promising curative role in the treatment of Visceral Leishmaniasis. The real challenge now will be proper translation, distribution and expansion of the advances made; it is essential that the new treatment options become truly accessible, not simply available, in endemic areas so that they may promote healing and save lives.”

They concluded: “In conclusion, this study has shown that there is a cure for the chronic form of Leishmaniasis. The total clearance of visceral leishmaniasis upon administration of HEPATOSAAB for three months is a testimony to this fact. Therefore, since prevention still remains the key to control, efforts must be made to strengthen strategies aimed at increasing awareness and encouraging people to take seriously the issue of personal hygiene. It is also important for the introduction of biolarvicide to stamp out completely the larvae of this parasite.

“Furthermore to cure and improve the quality of life of people infected with Visceral Leishmaniasis, the novel supplement- HEPATOSAAB should be allowed to be dispensed in hospitals and pharmacies across the length and breathe of the country and beyond.”

The researchers also claim that the polyherbal preparations stand a greater chance for the treatment of Ebola virus disease.

Euphorbia hirta belongs to the plant family Euphorbiaceae. It is called In Nigeria, asin uloko in Edo, endamyel in Fula-Fulfulde, ba ala in Igbo (Owerri), akun esan in Yoruba.

Euphorbia hirta is also locally known as ogwu ngwo (eczema drug) in some eastern parts of Nigeria is used locally to arrest bleeding in the event of an injury. Leaves of Euphorbia hirta are used in traditional medicine for the treatments of boils, wounds and control of diarrhoea and dysentery.

The study published in Journal of Natural Medicines is titled “Potential anti-dengue medicinal plants: a review.”

The study reads: “Traditional medicinal plants have been reported to have antiviral activity and some have been used to treat viral infections in animals and humans.

“To date, 31 different species have been found to have the potential to treat dengue; some of these have not yet been investigated scientifically. In the Philippines, Euphorbia hirta (asthma herb), known locally as “tawa–tawa”, is used in folk medicine to cure dengue fever by people in rural areas. Practitioners of traditional medicines believe that decoction of tawa–tawa leaves can reverse viral infection and prevent the fever from moving into critical stages, although there are no scientific studies proving its effectiveness.

“Sometimes, tawa–tawa is prepared together with pawpaw (papaya) leaves since papaya leaf extract has a function as an antibiotic to cure fever. While papaya leaf extract kills the bacterial infection that caused the fever, tawa–tawa extract prevents bleeding. In addition, unpublished research has found that Psidium guajava (guava) leaves are a good way to increase platelets, thus helping to avoid bleeding. A water decoction of guava leaves contains quercetin, which acts to inhibit the formation of enzyme mRNA in the virus.

Researchers have also developed a novel herbal formulation, PONNEEM, made predominantly with neem tree extracts (Azadiratcha indica) against dengue vector mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.

The study was published in Parasitology Research.

Researchers have also found the potential use of lemon seed extracts against dengue fever mosquito. The study was published in Pakistan Journal of Botany.

The researchers from the Department of Entomology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan and Chonbuk National University, Chonju, South Korea wrote: “Citrus seeds and peel contain certain compounds with varied level of bitterness. These compounds have been tested against insects and proved to be effective. The present study was therefore carried out to test the citrus seed extracts from 10 varieties against fourth instar larvae of dengue fever mosquito, Aedes albopictus (Skuse)…”

Researchers have also shown that Wormwood (Artemisia annua) inhibits both malaria and dengue fever – two of the most lethal mosquito-borne infections around the world.

Researchers from the University of Delhi found that an extract derived from the leaf of the Artemisia annua plant kills the parasites associated with the malaria and dengue fever infections.

According to the WHO, Ebola virus disease is one of the most virulent viral diseases known to humankind between 25 to 90 per cent fatality. The Ebola virus is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected persons.

Transmission of the Ebola virus has also occurred by handling sick or dead infected wild animals (chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope, fruit bats). The predominant treatment is general supportive therapy.

Dengue fever also known as breakbone fever, is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash that is similar to measles. In a small proportion of cases the disease develops into the life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or into dengue shock syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs.

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease spread by the bite of infected sand flies. There are several different forms of leishmaniasis. The most common are cutaneous and visceral. The cutaneous type causes skin sores. The visceral type affects internal organs such as the spleen, liver, and bone marrow. People with this form usually have fever, weight loss, and an enlarged spleen and liver.

Source: The Guardian Nigeria

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