Scientists find traditional herbal medicine works against malaria

Pharmacists from Ethiopia and Germany have studied Ranunculus multifidus, a yellow-flowered buttercup that has been used in traditional medicine for malaria and say it shows promise, especially with the emergence of strains resistant to chloroquine.

Each year more than 400,000 people pass away malaria – a preventable and treatable disease. It is estimated that two-thirds of deaths are in children under the age of five.

WHO said that the African region “carried over 90% of the global burden of disease”.

As the death toll has declined, progress has slowed, not least due to lack of funding, with the added stress of Covid-19 to top it off. As a result, scientists are scrambling to find new ways to treat the disease.

A medicinal plant from the buttercup family has been found to relieve symptoms of malaria. In some parts of Africa, a tea made from the leaves of Ranunculus multifidus is already used to treat malaria. Scientists wanted to study the plant to see if it actually helped treat malaria.

“Until now, it was not known which ingredients the plant contains and which of them could have a healing effect,” explains Professor Kaleab Asres of the University of Addis Ababa. Asres already knew the traditional use of the plant and initiated the study.

The active plant ingredient anemonine, according to a Press release, could eventually bring “a new approach” in the treatment of malaria. Extracts from Ranunculus multifidus “Significantly reduced symptoms in infected mice”, the team from Arba Minch University (AMU), Addis Ababa University (AAU) and Martin Luther Halle-Wittenberg University (MLU) report in the journal Molécules.

Pharmacists have infected lab mice with a particular type of parasite that causes malaria in rodents, as opposed to the parasite that causes malaria in humans. Then they used plant leaf extracts and tested their effectiveness in mice.

“We infected the animals with the Plasmodium berghei parasite, which causes malaria in some rodents including mice. In humans, malaria is caused by related species of plasmodia“, explains Betelhem Sirak of Arba Minch University.

The mice were divided into several categories: one group did not receive anemonin at all, but were treated with chloroquine, “an established and effective drug to treat malaria.” Other groups received varying doses of anemonin, from the buttercup plant. The press release makes a point of noting that the experiments “were conducted in accordance with internationally recognized guidelines for the keeping and care of laboratory animals.”

The results raised hope: “Although the extracts did not work as well as chloroquine, they nevertheless had a clearly positive effect on the course of the disease. For example, the mice lost much less weight and their body temperatures were also more stable than without treatment, ”explains Professor Peter Imming from MLU.

Scientists were able to extract anemonin from Ranunculus multifidus, although the plant “doesn’t actually contain it,” says Imming. “Anemonin is formed when the plant is injured, for example when it is crushed and the inside of its cells come into contact with air,” continues Imming. They imagine that this is the reason why the extracts prepared by crushing the plant showed the most promise.

Although they don’t know it for sure, scientists believe anemonin, like chloroquine, “affects the parasite’s metabolism,” the press release notes, but “probably attacks it in a different place.” This is an important finding, because the parasites that cause malaria, plasmodia, have developed resistance to the primary drug of choice, chloroquine, in parts of East and West Africa.

“Anemonin might have the potential to bypass this resistance,” says Imming. Yet because the way it works on plasmodia is unknown at this time, more studies are needed to find out how and why it works, and to increase its effectiveness. If the studies are successful, human testing will need to be done over several years to confirm its effectiveness in patients with malaria.

It was the in vivo (tested on live animals). The researchers also made some in vitro (tested in a test tube) studies to see if anemonin from Ranunculus multifidus works against other diseases for which it is used in traditional healing practices.

They tested for anemonin on bacteria similar to tuberculosis, but the plant extract was found to be ineffective. This was not a cause for concern, however, as Imming explains that “a substance that attacks all types of cells would also attack human cells – and therefore is poison.”

The researchers also investigated whether anemonin would work against two widespread parasite species, leishmania and schistosome in one different study recently published in Molecules. They write that “the results obtained in this investigation indicate that anemonin has the potential to be used as a model for the design of new anti-leishman and anti-ischistosomics. pharmacophores. “In short, anemonin could one day be used to fight leishmania and schistosome parasitic infections too.

Source: TRT World

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Hector Hedgepeth

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