Traditional south Indian medicine keeps dengue, chikungunya at bay: Study


Two Siddha medicines, commonly used in south India can prevent the dengue virus from replicating and the chikungunya virus from entering the body, resulting in no or very mild symptoms, according to a study by scientists from New Delhi’s International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) who have proved their efficacy in the laboratory and in mice.
The findings of the study could provide a boost to the traditional system of medicine, one of several that India is trying to foster. It could also provide relief to tens of thousands of patients infected with dengue or chikungunya every year. In 2017, 1,57,220 patients in India were infected and 250 died of dengue and 62,288 were infected with chikungunya.
“People already use these formulations and seem to get better, so there is proof of efficacy in human beings. In fact, the Tamil Nadu and Kerala government have also approved the use of these medicines during dengue and chikungunya outbreaks. However, till now, there was no scientific proof of whether these work or how,” said Dr Sujatha Sunil, the lead author of the two scientific papers based on the study. Dr. Sunil is the group leader of Vector Borne Diseases Group at ICGEB.
The scientists were able to show in vivo in the test tube that Amukkara Churanam that has Ashwagandha as its main ingredient prevents the chikungunya virus from crossing the blood-brain barrier (a semi-permeable membrane that separates the blood from the cerebrospinal fluid) and affecting the joints.
“In the lab, we worked with two types of tissues (of the blood-brain barrier and joints) and we saw that the compound prevented the virus from proliferating in both. And, in mice too, the chikungunya virus did not cross the blood-brain barrier or affect the joints,” said Dr Sunil.
In effect, the Siddha medicine prevented neurological symptoms like inflammation of the brain or altered mental functions due to chikungunya, the major cause of admission to intensive care units and death in the mosquito-borne viral disease.The formulation also reduces or eliminating post-disease arthritis (or joint pain).
“We are still working on studying how the drug acts on these particular tissues and it might be useful in treating other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis,” said Dr Sunil.
Another medicine, Nilavembu Kudineer, which the scientists studied in-vivo and are in the process of studying in mice, can restrict the entry of chikungunya virus and stop the dengue virus from replicating.
“The formulation, whose main ingredient is Andrographis, most likely acts by binding to the receptors that the viruses bind with. It can be used as a prophylactic treatment (treatment to prevent a disease) for dengue and chikungunya as it will result in either no symptoms or very mild symptoms,” said Dr Sunil.
Her lab is still trying to test the dengue virus on mice. “We need to mutate both the dengue and chikungunya viruses as the viruses do not produce the same symptoms in mice,” she said.
Both studies have been accepted in the Journal of Evidence Based Alternative Medicine and the Journal of Viral Diseases and were funded by the Central Council For Research in Siddha under the ministry of AYUSH.

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