By Maxwell Awumah
The discovery of new drugs is vital to achieving the eradication of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Africa and around the world.
Now, researchers have identified traditional Ghanaian medicines that work in the laboratory against schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, and lymphatic filariasis, three diseases endemic to Ghana, according to a PLOS publication of NTDs, copied to the Ghana News Agency.
The major intervention for NTDs in Ghana is currently mass drug administration of a few repeatedly recycled drugs, which can lead to reduced efficacy and the emergence of drug resistance.
It said chronic infections of schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, and lymphatic filariasis could be fatal.
It said Schistosomiasis is caused by the blood flukes Schistosome haematobium and S. mansoni while Onchocerciasis, or river blindness, is caused by the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus with Lymphatic filariasis, also called elephantiasis, caused by the parasitic filarial worm Wuchereria bancrofti.
Researcher, Dr Dorcas Osei-Safo, Senior lecturer, University of Ghana, and colleagues, in the new work obtained from the Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicines Practitioners Association,15 traditional medicines used for treating NTDs in local communities.
It indicated the medicines were available in aqueous herbal preparations or dried powdered herbs with in all cases, crude extracts were prepared from the herbs and screened in the laboratory for their ability to treat various NTDs.
The publication said two extracts, NTD-B4-DCM and NTD-B7-DCM, displayed high activity against S. mansoni adult worms, decreasing the movement of the worms by 78.4% and 84.3% respectively.
A different extract, NTD-B2-DCM, was the most active against adult Onchocera onchengi worms, killing 100% of males and more than 60% of females.
Some eight of 26 crude extracts tested, including NTD-B4-DCM and NTD-B2-DCM, also exhibited good activity against trypanosomes, parasites that cause other human diseases but were not the original targets of the traditional medicines.
The researchers say “By embracing indigenous knowledge systems which have evolved over centuries, we can potentially unlock a wealth of untapped research and shape it by conducting sound scientific investigations to produce safe, efficacious and good quality remedies.”