A new study in the journal Science reveals that a Chinese herb, Stephania tetrandra, holds promise for combating the deadly virus Ebola, which recently broke out in Western Africa.
There is currently no approved drug treatment or vaccine for the Ebola virus, which spreads from person to person through transmission of body fluids, and causes a lethal hemorraghic fever in humans. But now, a compound derived from the Chinese herb Stephania tetandra holds promise for combating this deadly disease.
A new study published in the journal Science revealed that the compound tetrandrine, derived from the root of Stephania tetrandra, prevents human white blood cells in lab dishes from being infected by the Ebola virus. The study authors found that the Ebola virus enters host cells through endosomal calcium channels called two-pore channels (TPCs). Tetrandrine blocks these channels, and effectively imprisons the virus. "It is then detoured to be destroyed. This stops infection," said virologist Robert Davey, Ph.D., of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.
Although this approach also showed therapeutic efficacy in lab mice, the investigators stated that more research is needed, including monkey studies, before it can be tested in humans. Davey estimated that this approach could potentially be used to treat people in two to five years. Norbert Klugbauer, a pharmacologist and microbiologist at Germany's University of Freiburg who also worked on the study expressed, "In my opinion, tetrandrine is now one of the most promising candidates that could be used to inhibit Ebola virus infection.”
In the face of the recent outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa, this study is an important discovery showing the potential of looking to Chinese Medicine for additional solutions to modern day health crises.
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