Extract from the bark of the Neem tree may help treat and reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, according to a study by researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata.
The Neem tree, native to India, has been used for thousands of years for its antiparasitic, antibacterial and antiviral properties, the researchers said.
The bark extract has helped treat malaria, gastric and intestinal ulcers, skin diseases and many other illnesses, they said.
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The latest study, published recently in the journal Virology, shows that components of Neem bark can target a wide range of viral proteins, suggesting its potential as an antiviral agent against emerging coronavirus variants, including SARS. -CoV-2.
“The goal of this research is to develop a Neem-based drug that can reduce the risk of severe disease when a person is infected with coronaviruses,” said study co-author Maria Nagel, a professor at the University of Colorado Medical School, USA. .
“We hope scientists won’t have to constantly develop new therapies every time a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 emerges,” she said.
Much like how people take penicillin for strep throat, researchers are considering taking the Neem-based drug for Covid-19, allowing them to return to their normal lives without fear of hospitalization and death.
Scientists studied the impact of bark extract against coronaviruses in their laboratories.
Researchers from IISER Kolkata tested the extract in animal models and showed it to have antiviral properties against the coronavirus.
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Using computer modelling, the researchers predicted that the Neem bark extract will bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein at various locations, preventing the virus from entering host cells.
The spike protein is used by the SARS-CoV-2 virus to enter and infect cells.
Nagel’s lab at the University of Colorado tested Neem bark extract in SARS-CoV-2 human lung cells.
The extract was also found to be effective as a preventive medicine against infection and also reduced virus replication and spread after infection.
“The next step in our research is to identify specific components of Neem bark extract that are antiviral. Since these components bind to various regions of SARS-CoV-2, we believe it will be effective on emerging variants with spike mutations,” Nagel says.
“We will then determine the dosage formulation of an antiviral drug to treat coronavirus infections,” she said.
The results could guide new antiviral therapeutic efforts to fight the ongoing pandemic, while holding the promise of treating new strains of coronavirus, the researchers added.
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