When it comes to herbal medicine, the Chinese seem to always lead the way. From green tea to balms and ointments, leave it to the Chinese to always get ahead of everybody.
Now, while big western pharmaceutical companies are spending millions to produce a drug to fight the deadly Ebola virus, a compound common in Chinese traditional medicine, known as tetrandine has been reported of being effective in treating the highly lethal Ebola virus disease.
The drug’s mode of action involves blocking the two channels required by the virus to gain entrance in a cell to be able to infect it totally, this is reported in the U.S. journal Science.
“We are very excited about the progress made in this study and the momentum it provides as scientists across the world vigorously search for effective vaccines and treatments against Ebola virus,” lead author Robert Davey of Texas Biomedical Research Institute said in a statement.
By binding itself to the proteins found in the cell’s surface, the Ebola virus is able to get inside the cell. The virus then follows an endosomal route or membrane bound route that brings the virus to every part of the cell to complete the infection and totally destroying it.
The latest research was able to distinguish two pore calcium channels or TPCs found in the endosomes. These two pore channels take charge of the whereabouts of the Ebola virus inside the cell and discovered that these channels can be shut off using therapeutic drugs which are used in treating blood pressure.
Collaborating with a group in Munich, Cermany and Southwest Research Institute, Davey’s team discovered that Tetrandrine was the most potent blocker of TPCs in mice.
“Starting Tetrandrine treatment soon after infection significantly enhanced the survival of mice without any detectable side effects … when the treatment was started one day after virus challenge, half the mice survived,” their paper wrote. “These results indicate that Tetrandrine is highly effective against disease in mice.”
An accompanying article published by Science cautioned the findings don’t indicate that “a viable treatment is close at hand.”
Tetrandrine has not been tested inmacaque monkeys, the best testing ground when it comes to drug effectiveness for Ebola virus and it’s not accepted in China for human consumption. The dose used in mice might be too strong for humans and may become toxic.
“Given the mode of action, it seems unlikely that Tetrandrine treatment would be superior to the most advanced Ebola post- exposure treatments,” it wrote.
The death toll imputed to Ebola virus has been more than 9,400.