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Guinea hen weed, a possible cure for virus problems

Published:Monday | January 11, 2016 | 1:00 AM
Dr Henry Lowe
Guinea Hen Weed
Dr Charah T. Watson
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Guinea hen weed is once more in the news as the noted Jamaican scientist, Dr Henry Lowe, and his research team have reported another new medical finding about the antiviral properties of this weed.

The latest discovery by the team indicates guinea hen weed (Petiveriaalliacea L) and its major bioactive compound, DibenzylTrisulfide (DTS), can treat the deadly Hepatitis C virus. In the paper published on December 5, 2015, in the British Microbiology Research Journal titled: 'Inhibition of the Human Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) by DibenzylTrisulfide from Petiveriaalliacea L (guinea hen weed)', the researchers highlighted the potential of guinea hen weed and DTS to inhibit the growth of the HCV virus.

Viruses are minute entities; most are harmless. However, many have been the cause of concern to public health. Diseases such as HIV-AIDS, ebola, dengue fever, Chikungunya, and Zika are all due to viral infections. Managing virus infection costs billions. While vaccines have proven to be a very effective means of preventing and controlling viruses, there are many new and emerging virus-related diseases where no medication or vaccines exist. To treat and manage these potentially devastating diseases, plants such as guinea hen weed could potentially hold the cure.

The Bio-Tech R&D Institute and their research partners at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) Microbiology Department and Institute of Human Virology and the University of Maryland School of Medicine have been conducting research with aims of identifying new treatments for viruses and other pathogenicmicroorganisms. Dr Charah Watson, technical director of Bio-Tech R&D Institute, noted the research group has been looking at the activity of Jamaican medicinal plants and the potential they hold in treating and managing various diseases.

 

MAJOR PROJECT

 

Dr Watson made reference to a major collaborative project between the UHWI's Microbiology Department and the Bio-Tech R&D Institute. "This project involves the investigation and evaluation of certain medicinal plants which can act against pathogenic microorganisms."

She added, "The results to date have been very promising, with several extracts from plant species found only in Jamaica showing significant potential in inhibiting a wide range of microorganisms, including Klebsiella pneumonia, which was recently reported to be implicated in the death of the premature babies at two of the island's major hospitals. As new and interesting information emerge from our research findings, as we have promised, we will share these with the public from time to time," Watson said.

The teams have had much success in their efforts and have published several peer-reviewed papers in notable journals on their research finding. In 2014, Dr Lowe announced potent bio-activity against the deadly HIV in Lignum Vitae, Jamaica's national flower.

The findings were published in the April 2014 issue of the European Journal of Medicinal Plants under the title: 'Anti HIV-1 Activity of the Extracts of Guaiacum officinaleL (Zygophyllaceae)'. Also in 2014, the group reported the antiviral activity of guinea hen weed in September 2014, in which the first anti HIV-1 activity of guinea hen weed was reported in the same journal.

The new findings are the results of the determination of the scientists to evaluate and validate the curative properties of guinea hen weed and other Jamaican medicinal plants. The plant is already widely used in some traditional folk medicinal preparations, as well as in commercial nutraceutical formulations; the most prominent of which is the Eden Gardens Nutraceuticals line of teas and supplements.

Most of the guinea hen weed preparations available in Jamaica are used as alternative medicine for therapy for several conditions such as cancer, arthritis, pain relief and, most recently, in managing symptoms of the Chikungunya virus.

Eden Gardens has seen a dramatic increase in sales of guinea hen weed and bissy supplements and teas since July 2014, which they believe were related to the Chick-V outbreak.

Dr Lowe said, "Although much work is still to be done to take this discovery to a commercial level, the discovery and development of more effective and affordable treatments for the Hepatitis C virus remain a global priority. We will continue to research, develop and produce nutraceuticals, as well as pharmaceuticals, from our medicinal plants, with special emphasis on ball moss, guinea hen weed and cannabis (ganja)."