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Furore over natural cures for COVID-19

By Chukwuma Muanya
06 March 2020   |   4:30 am
Following the confirmation of the first case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), last Friday, in Nigeria, the media have been awash with claims of herbal cures for the killer disease.

Chicken pepper soup CREDIT:

Following the confirmation of the first case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), last Friday, in Nigeria, the media have been awash with claims of herbal cures for the killer disease.

Until now, scientists insist that viral infections do not have any cures and will always run their courses of between two weeks to 28 days. They said the body can only be helped with treatments to ameliorate or remove the symptoms and prevent complications. They, however, said viruses could be prevented by immunisation with vaccines and boosting the immune systems with several other methods.

Meanwhile, the most interesting one is the claim that the virus can be ‘cured’ with pepper. It claims that coronavirus can be seen as a ‘Pepper Deficient Syndrome’, and indicates that eating pepper soup can offer protection.

Also, the CNN reported that the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), United States, doctors were not just providing top tier medical care to coronavirus patients, on a cruise ship docked off the cost of Japan, they are also supporting them as they battle the symptoms.

UNMC’s division of infectious diseases chief, Dr. Mark Rupp, told CNN that the hospital is providing patients with chicken soup and antipyretics, or anti-fever medicine like Tylenol or Motrin.

Before now, chicken soup has been recommended as natural cure for common cold.

However, while pepper has been shown to have antioxidant, detoxification and antimicrobial properties, there is no evidence that it can cure coronavirus.

According to a study titled “Remdesivir and chloroquine effectively inhibit the recently emerged novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in vitro” and published in the journal Nature, remdesivir and chloroquine are highly effective in the control of 2019-nCoV (COVID-19) infections in vitro.

“Since these compounds have been used in human patients with a safety track record and shown to be effective against various ailments, we suggest that they should be assessed in human patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease,” the researchers noted.

Chloroquine was derived from the bark of Cinchona tree.

Also, a Professor of Virology at Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), Abia state, Maduike Ezeibe, claims has a cure for the coronavirus.

Ezeibe said the therapy he invented for the treatment of Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) called MSAMS, is also a cure for COVID-19 and Lassa fever.

Also, an herbalist living in Turkey’s eastern province of Van claimed on Monday that he can cure the deadly coronavirus and with nothing but herbs.

Putting his concoctions on par with modern medicine, Mehmet Kasım Alageyik said no disease or ailment is able to withstand his remedies, as he went on to claim that he has cured dozens of conditions from skin cancer to cerebral palsy.

Elaborating on his solution for the coronavirus, Alageyik said his medicine was a mixture of different herbs that would kill the virus. “The government can have it and run tests on it. It will cure a patient within 15 to 20 days,” he said.

Meanwhile, China’s state press Xinhua published an article that claims that the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (SIMM, under the Chinese Academy of Sciences) and the Wuhan Institute of Virology had discovered that the Shuanghuanglian oral liquid could be used to “inhibit” the 2019-nCoV.

Made from a blend of honeysuckle, Chinese skullcap and forsythia, shuanghuanglian is believed to be antiviral, antibacterial and good for the immune system; thus, it is often used to relieve symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat.

The report caused panic buying of the TCM both online and in brick-and-mortar pharmacies in the country. However, the statement was also met with a wall of skepticism from both the general public and doctors.

In the paper, titled “Study Progress on Antiviral Activities and Mechanisms of Flavonoids in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Natural Medicines,” authored by researchers from the Department of Pharmacy at Tongji Hospital, which is affiliated to Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, it is also mentioned that flavonoid extracted from litchi seeds can inhibit the proteinase activity of SARS-CoV3CL for its viral protein synthesis, which makes it a potential treatment for SARS.

In another article, Xinhua said that eight patients infected with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) had been “cured by TCM or a combination of TCM and Western medicine in Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.” It goes on to say that this is the first batch of patients, of whom six were in critical condition, cured by such treatment.

In 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) even added Chinese medicine to its “International Classification of Diseases” — a reference document for medical trends and global health statistics — after years of campaigning by Beijing.

But members of the scientific community slammed the move, with the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council calling the decision “a major problem” due to the lack of evidence-based practice.

Also, a professor of pharmacognosy from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bioresources Development Group (BDG), Maurice Iwu, on Monday, presented a plant-based patented treatment for COVID-19 to the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu.

Iwu said BDG are willing to make available the lead compounds and the phytomedicine (IHP – Detox Tea), which is listed by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and contains the active molecule, a bicyclic diterpenoid lactone for possible evaluation by other laboratories with appropriate testing facility both in Nigeria and overseas.
Bioresources Institute of Nigeria (BION) is a member of the BDG, an independent biosciences research and development organization that cultivates, processes and produces medicines, nutraceuticals and cosmetics from natural products.

Iwu explained: “Your Excellency will recall that when the Ebola virus infection broke out in 2014 many people were surprised that our research group had an experimental lead compound that was identified 15 years earlier in 1999. And now with the emergence of a novel Coronavirus in 2019 as COVID-19 we had identified and patented a possible treatment back in 2015.

It is very important that we must remain ahead of these emergent infections through research…

“The drug discovery project was started at the University of Nigeria Nsukka where I was a Professor of Pharmacognosy and continued in America when I was a visiting scholar at the Division of Experimental Therapeutics of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington DC, United States from 1994 -2003. It was reactivated in 2014/2015 during the Ebola Virus epidemic and we collaborated actively with leading laboratories from different parts of the world, which led to the confirmation of the anti-Ebola virus activity of three structurally characterised compounds from Nigerian plants which were subsequently granted patent protection by the Federal Government of Nigeria – (NG/P/2015/84; NG/P/2015/85; and NG/P/2015/97).

“During the antiviral bioassays in 2014-2015 it was discovered that the compounds exhibited significant antiviral activity against the SARS – Coronavirus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus). One of the test compounds (BION -3) has an EC50 of 1.2 µg/ml in the Visual (cytopathic effect/toxicity) assay and 1.1 µg/ml in the Neutral Red (cytopathic effect/toxicity) bioassay against SARS Coronavirus.”

The professor of pharmacognosy said the have concluded arrangements with the Antiviral Programme of the United States National Institute of Health (US-NIH) to subject the compound to bioassay against the Wuhan Coronavirus (Also known as COVID-19, 2019-nCoV or 2019 Novel Coronavirus).

Iwu said on Thursday February 27, 2020, the Bioresources Institute of Nigeria, executed a Non-Clinical Evaluation Agreement (NCEA) with the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID), part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), an institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is a component of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an agency of the U.S. Government.

He said the lead compound is one of the most studied natural products in history with a remarkable high safety profile and its pharmacokinetics profile and putative mechanism of action are being reviewed. Iwu said they have under consideration possible dosage forms including a combination product formulation of the three agents (Rhygyfyn) described in their patents as broad-spectrum antiviral drug, identified and developed here in Nigeria.

Indeed, in the absence of medical solutions for coronavirus, people are turning to natural solutions such as colloidal silver. Because colloidal silver is a broad-spectrum antivirus, that also strengthens the immune system, it can potentially prevent or help to treat coronavirus infection. Many people are now taking it prevents infection. Websites that sell colloidal silver have seen an increase in article views and purchases of colloidal silver by people in Hong Kong and China.

A naturopathic doctor Sherrill Sellman said Silver Solution has been tested on some of the strains of coronavirus and found to effectively deactivate them and to boost the immune system.

Before antibiotics were invented, colloidal silver was used until there was pressure to remove it from the market in the 20th century because silver is natural and cannot be patented. Now companies are permitted to use it in medical instruments and wound dressings to kill pathogens. Many manufacturers have registered numerous patents for colloidal silver medical products. Colloidal silver is extensively used in medical implants, wound dressings, dental work, surgical needles, breathing tubes, bone implant systems, fracture setting instruments and catheters (to kill pathogens).

Consumers should ask themselves why it was banned and is now being widely used in medical products.

Research into its efficacy as an antimicrobial agent is ongoing and it is now known to kill over 650 known pathogens within 72 hours. In one study, three types of silver nanoparticles, one in a magnetic form, were tested and found to effectively destroy bacteriophage ϕX174, murine norovirus (MNV), and adenovirus serotype 2 (AdV2) under different conditions. The magnetic form was found to be most effective.

Colloidal silver has also been found to kill and eradicate the smallpox virus, the influenza virus and HIV-1, and to prevent HIV from attaching to host cells. It is known to prevent infections and viruses such as hepatitis B. It is also used to treat and prevent flu and the common cold. A study on children up to 12 years old, with nasal congestion and the common cold, treated half of them with a solution of silver and beta glucan and the other half with saline solution. Both groups benefited, but 90 per cent of the silver group completely recovered.

There have been many other studies. Still, currently available research evidence only reveals the surface of the potential benefits. More research is required.

Meanwhile, Indian officials are actively promoting the use of alternative medicine to prevent the disease and manage symptoms.

Several government departments, including the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy) and the Press Information Bureau have used social media to circulate the questionable advice.

The Ministry of AYUSH, which promotes India’s booming yoga, naturopathy and homoeopathy sectors, released an advisory listing herbal oils to be rubbed into the scalp to purportedly ease the symptoms.

It also suggested ingesting Arsenicum album-30, a homoeopathic treatment.

The ministry also issued general advice on maintaining personal hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus.

Ayurvedic medicine – which means the “science of life” in Sanskrit – treats the physical and mental sources of illness through, for example, prescribing herbs in conjunction with yoga or massage.

The ministry said homoeopathy, the treatment of diseases with alternative medicines prescribed in minute doses, is the main source of healthcare for some 10 per cent of India’s 1.3-billion population.

The Unani system is a mix of traditional medicines from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Persia, India, China and other Middle East countries, according to the ministry.

Apart from the recommended Ayurvedic, homoeopathy and Unani treatments, the ministry also advised Indians who fear they have been infected to “wear a mask and contact your nearest hospital immediately”.