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More medicinal plants employed in HIV treatment

By Chukwuma Muanya
19 December 2019   |   4:13 am
Scientists have identified, validated and employed more medicinal plants in the treatment of Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Malaria plant (Artemisia annua) SOURCE: NATURAL PEDIA

Scientists have identified, validated and employed more medicinal plants in the treatment of Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

A recent study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences identified the anti-HIV activity of the tea infusion prepared from Artemisia annua by using the validated cellular systems were examined. The tea infusion of Artemisia annua was found to be highly active with IC50 values as low as 2.0 μg/mL. In addition, artemisinin was found as inactive at 25 μg/mL and the related species Artemisia afra (not containing artemisinin) has also shown a similar level of activity.

IC50 is the half maximal inhibitory concentration is a measure of the potency of a substance in inhibiting a specific biological or biochemical function.

Artemisia annua, commonly called annual wormwood, and belonging to the family Asteraceae, is a medicinal plant native to temperate Asia but has presently naturalised throughout the world. It has been recently introduced for commercial cultivation in Nigeria. The plant has been scientifically revealed to contain a rich portfolio of bioactive compounds including polyphenols and exhibits a wide range of pharmacological properties including antimalarial, antimicrobial, anti-parasitic, and antiviral activities.

Artemisinin, one of the most important of the several compounds produced by the plant, is highly potent and efficacious against multidrug resistant strains of malarial parasites and has also displayed unique pharmacological activities against a wide range of parasitic organisms, a number of viruses and tumour.

Indeed, since the beginning of the epidemic, HIV has infected around 70 million people worldwide, most of whom reside is sub-Saharan Africa. There have been very promising developments in the treatment of HIV with anti-retroviral drug cocktails. However, drug resistance to anti-HIV drugs is emerging, and many people infected with HIV have adverse reactions or do not have ready access to currently available HIV chemotherapies. Thus, there is a need to discover new anti-HIV agents to supplement our current arsenal of anti-HIV drugs and to provide therapeutic options for populations with limited resources or access to currently efficacious chemotherapies.

Plant-derived natural products continue to serve as a reservoir for the discovery of new medicines, including anti-HIV agents.

According to the study, many compounds with anti-HIV-1 effects have been screened and isolated from natural sources and discovered to inhibit HIV at nearly all stages of the viral life cycle. They include alkaloids, sulfated polysaccharides, polyphenolics, flavonoids, coumarins, phenolics, tannins, triterpenes, lectins, phloroglucinols, lactones, iridoids, depsidones, O-caffeoyl derivatives, lignans, ribosome inactivating proteins, saponins, xanthones, naphthodianthrones, photosensitisers, phospholipids, quinones and peptides.

Natural products provide a large reservoir for screening of anti-HIV agents with novel structures and anti-viral mechanisms because of their structural diversity. A variety of natural products have been found to inhibit unique enzymes and proteins crucial to the life cycle of HIV including efficient intervention with the reverse transcription process, virus entry, and integrase and protease inhibition. However the mechanism of anti-HIV activities of many natural products is still unknown. Some of the plant extracts have significantly inhibited the enzyme activity of HIV-1 replication and protected cells infected with HIV-1. These extracts with anti-HIV activity are also active against other retroviruses such as Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). Most studies have used in vitro test systems for anti-HIV-1 enzyme assays such as HIV-1 reverse transcriptase colorimetric assay, HIV-1 integrase assay, and HIV-1 protease fluorogenic assay, but a few in vivo studies have been carried out using compounds isolated from natural sources.

The International Journal of Molecular Sciences study reviewed anti-HIV activities of extracts from some medicinal plants.

Momordica charantia (bitter melon)
Commonly called bitter melon, bitter gourd, African cucumber or balsam pear, Momordica charantia belongs to the plant family Cucurbitaceae. In Nigeria, bitter melon is called ndakdi in Dera; dagdaggi in Fula-Fulfulde; hashinashiap in Goemai; daddagu in Hausa; iliahia in Igala; akban ndene in Igbo (Ibuzo in Delta State); dagdagoo in Kanuri; akara aj, ejinrin nla, ejinrin weeri, ejirin-weewe or igbole aja in Yoruba.

Momordica charantia, known as bitter melon and widely exploited in folkloric medicine, has been shown to inhibit HIV-1 reverse transcriptase due to its protein coded as MRK29. The efficacies and molecular mechanisms of bitter gourd-induced anti-diabetic, anti-HIV, and antitumor activities contributed by over twenty active components were determined. Therefore, bitter gourd is a cornucopia of health and it has been deserved in-depth investigations for clinical application in the future.

Anti-HIV properties of the fruit pulp extract of Momordica balsamina, commonly used in the northern part of Nigeria for its anti-viral efficacy in poultry, was studied in vitro and was found as a potent inhibitor of HIV-1 replication; further research on fruit pulp extract should be pursued for its potential in the prophylaxis and therapy of retroviral infections in humans.

Neem extract: a potential herbal remedy for treating HIV
According to a study published in the European Journal of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, in HIV/AIDS patients, a 12-week oral administration of acetone water neem leaf extract (IRAB) had a significant influence in vivo on CD4 cells (which HIV reduces) without any adverse effects in the patients. CD4 count is a marker of the immune system. Of the 60 patients who completed treatment, 50 were completely laboratory-test compliant. The mean levels of CD4 cells increased by 159 per cent in 50 patients, which is a major increase; the number of HIV/AIDS pathologies decreased from the 120 baseline to 5; and significant increases were experienced in body weight (12 per cent), haemoglobin concentration (24 per cent), and lymphocyte differential count (24 per cent). IRAB is recommended as part of an HIV/AIDS drug treatment.

Results of another study on inhibitory effect of Neem on HIV published in the European Journal of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences demonstrated that compared to the standard anti-HIV drug AZT, a hydroacetone extract of A. indica significantly inhibited acute HIV-1 infection and cell-to-cell transmission, as assayed by syncytia formation. At 100 g/ml the extract completely inhibited syncytium formation but the anti-fusion activity of the extract was slightly lower when 50 _g/ml of extract were used. Formation of syncytium is mediated by interaction of viral glycoprotein gp120 with specific regions of the host cell CD4 receptor.

Neem extract almost completely inhibited the fusion interaction between normal C8166 and HIV-1 chronically infected C8166 cells in tissue culture. The active principles in the extract possibly inhibited syncytia formation by binding tothe viral gp120, thereby blocking the gp120-CD4 interaction, thereby inhibiting not only HIV binding to the CD4+ cells but also preventing HIV-induced syncytium (giant cell) formation. The anti-HIV effect of neem extract could not have been due to the toxic effect of the extracts on the C8166 cell line since cell viability studies showed that the tested concentrations were relatively non-toxic to the cells in tissue culture.

The researchers concluded: “Many of the existing synthetic drugs cause various side effects. Hence, plant compounds based drug development could be useful in meeting this demand for newer drugs with minimal side effect. It is possible that Neem may take a role as an adjuvant to the use of antibiotics or as a replacement of current antibiotics to treat the viral infections. Fractionated acetone/water neem leaf extract is the only drug reported to have activities against HIV/AIDS. The present study showed the effectiveness of Neem plant part extract with chloroform and acetone as a solvent against the most common infection associated with AIDS. Due to high cost of medicines most of the people cannot get such anti viral drugs but the neem extract is easy to prepare and it doesn’t required the high cost therefore it is necessary to know the medicinal value of neem and their antiviral activity and used to treat AIDS.”

Also, neem extract is the major ingredient of a compositions and methods for the cure of HIV/AIDS.

A pharmaceutical composition for the treatment of patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection is disclosed. The composition comprises effective amounts of: components obtained from Neem (Azadirachta Indica); and a protein supplement. This composition can be produced by: contacting powdered Neem with water to allow said water to extract components from said Neem powder to produce an aqueous extract; and mixing the aqueous extract with a protein supplement to form a drink. A method for treating a patient with human immunodeficiency virus infection is also disclosed. This method can comprise the step of orally administering to said patient the drink.

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