A drug to fight COVID-19 could soon emerge from Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha. According to a collaborative research study by DAILAB at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, and DAILAB at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Japan, the herb can be an effective therapeutic and preventive drug against the COVID-19 infection.
The natural compounds from Ashwagandha and Propolis have the potential to be an effective novel coronavirus preventive drug, according to the research team.
"The researchers targeted the main SARS-CoV-2's enzyme for splitting proteins, known as the main protease (Mpro) that plays a key role in mediating viral replication. This is an attractive drug target for this virus, and as humans don't naturally have this enzyme, compounds that target Mpro are likely to have low toxicity," said D Sundar, head of IIT-Delhi's Biotechnology department.
The findings may not only help save time and cost required for screening for anti-COVID-19 drugs, but may also offer some preventive and therapeutic value for the management of fatal COVID-19 pandemic, and hence, warrant prioritised validation in the laboratory and clinical tests," he said.
The drug's development may take some time, and in the current scenario, these natural resources -- Ashwagandha and Propolis – can offer some preventive or even therapeutic value, according to Sundar. He said that although these are easily available and affordable, one has to be cautious about the content of bioactive ingredients.
CAPE, while is a major component of propolis, its amount and stability are critical factors that could be managed by generating its complex with cyclodextrins.
Withanone, on the other hand, varies with geography, parts and size of the Ashwagandha plant. So, in order to acquire or appreciate particular effects, we must use the right and quality-controlled resource and extracts," Sundar said.
The government has also initiated a study on whether Ashwagandha can be an alternative to anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a potential COVID-19 preventive.
The study is being carried out by a group of scientists and researchers from the Ministry of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, University Grants Commission (UGC) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
"While new line of drug and vaccine development have been initiated worldwide, in the current scenario of high infected numbers, severity of the disease and high morbidity, repurposing of the existing drugs are heavily explored by recruiting integrative genomics and bioinformatics research tools,” Sundar said.
"While well-trusted reputation of Ashwagandha as an immunity enhancer forms a basis of the recent initiative of the Indian government in forming an Interdisciplinary Task Force to launch its clinical research studies related to SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 disease, the current research report of this team provide hints on its direct anti-viral activities," he said.
According to AYUSH Ministry, Aswagandha, which also known as Indian Ginseng, and in Sanskrit, means “one that imparts the strength of a horse”, is an anti-aging supplement.
According to Aurvedic traditions, it is one of the most highly regarded and widely used herbs and is believed to promote energy as well as overall health and longevity.
The herb is believed to act “as an adaptogen by helping maintain levels of immune function that are already within the normal range and nourishing and strengthening the inner reserve of the human body.”
The novel coronavirus has claimed over three lakh lives with over 48 lakh people infected across the globe. In India, 3,029 people have died due to the disease and 91,169 have been infected.
(With inputs from PTI)