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Garlic complements anti-malarial drug: Study

Bengaluru, Feb 17, 2016, DHNS 1:55 IST
 Artemisinin, a drug isolated from the sweet wormwood plant artemisia annua, has been in common use to treat malaria. However, of late, the malaria superbug has gained resistance against all existing antimalarials, including artemisinin, in some parts of the world.  DH file photo
A study conducted by a researcher at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has found that garlic complements an anti-malarial drug and greatly improves the efficiency of the medicine.

Artemisinin, a drug isolated from the sweet wormwood plant artemisia annua, has been in common use to treat malaria. However, of late, the malaria superbug has gained resistance against all existing antimalarials, including artemisinin, in some parts of the world. “The WHO has restricted the use of artemisinin on its own (monotherapy) and encourages using artemisinin in combination with other therapies,” reads a release from the IISc.

While studying various alternative and safe drugs that can be used in combination with arteether (a semi-synthetic derivative of artemisinin), Dr P G Vathsala, a researcher from the Department of Biochemistry, IISc found out that garlic was the best candidate.

“Garlic pearl oil, when used on its own, could cure malaria to some extent. However, recrudescence (re-infection) was observed when artemisinin was used on its own. Using the arteether and garlic pearl oil (a garlic concentrate) combination therapy, we could show that not only did the drugs cure malaria in the first instance, but also the infected mice suffered no relapse and showed good recovery,” said Vathsala.

She worked with mice models infected with plasmodium berghei (a mouse disease which mimics plasmodium falciparum). Her results clearly demonstrated how the combination of the two drugs ensured mice survival, whereas with monotherapy, neither survived. Dr Vathsala is now working on understanding the mechanism of action of garlic as an anti-malarial drug as this will give better insights for designing methods of successful therapy. Meanwhile, two scholars from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc, have found new plant species belonging to the custard apple family.

The new species is characterized by long flower stalk, maroon flowers and stigma (female reproductive part) shape that distinguish it from other closely related species. “Though this plant belongs to the custard apple family, the fruits are not edible and look different”, said Navendu Page, a PhD student who made the discovery. The plant has been named as Miliusa malnadense, after Malnad, the part of the Western Ghats.

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