Guinea hen weed a potential treatment for Hepatitis C

Saturday, January 02, 2016

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DR Henry Lowe and his research team at the Bio-Tech R&D Institute, based at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, in collaboration with his University of Maryland Medical School research team — headed by Drs Joseph Bryant and Ngeh Toyang — have recently reported a new scientific discovery.

This discovery is related to the bioactivity of guinea hen weed (Petiveria alliacea L) and its major bioactive compound Dibenzyl Trisulfide (DTS).

In a paper published on December 5, 2015, in the British Microbiology Research Journal, entitled: Inhibition of the Human Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) by Dibenzyl Trisulfide from Petiveria alliacea L (guinea hen weed), the researchers highlighted the potential of guinea hen weed and DTS to inhibit the growth of HCV compared to controls.


Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus and is a major public health problem, and emerges as both an endemic and a pandemic life-threatening disease. The infection is transmitted mainly through blood transfusion.

In 2010, more than 20,250 Jamaicans were reported to have the virus. Today, more than 170 million people are infected with HCV worldwide.


Dr Lowe’s research group has been working on guinea hen weed and DTS for a number of years, looking at not only anti-cancer activities, but also the antiviral activities. They previously published the results of their research on the antiviral activity of guinea hen weed in September 2014, in which the first anti HIV-1 activity of guinea hen weed was reported in the European Journal of Medicinal Plants.

Dr Joseph Bryant of the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine and co-author of this recent article, as well as the previous publication, stated that the plant has a great potential to be used as an adjuvant therapy for both HIV and Hepatitis C, where standard therapy is lacking.

The new findings are the results of the dedication of Dr Lowe and his research team to evaluate and validate the curative properties of guinea hen weed and other Jamaican medicinal plants.

Guinea hen weed is already widely used in some traditional folk medicinal preparations as well as in commercial nutraceutical formulations, including the Eden Gardens Nutraceuticals line of products which comprise of wellness teas and supplements. Most of the guinea hen weed preparations available in Jamaica are used as alternative medicine for several conditions such as cancer, arthritis, pain relief, and most recently, in managing symptoms of the chikungunya virus.

The sales force which distributes Eden Gardens Nutraceuticals products reported a dramatic increase in sales of guinea hen weed and bissy supplements and teas since July 2014, which they believe were related to the chikungunya virus outbreak. This observation is currently being reviewed.

Dr Charah Watson, technical director of Bio-Tech R&D Institute, noted that guinea hen weed is one of the many Jamaican medicinal plants being researched by the group, in the hope of finding new treatment options for various disease conditions. Dr Watson referred to a major collaborative project between the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) Microbiology Department and the Bio-Tech R&D Institute.

"This project involves the investigation and evaluation of certain medicinal plants which can act against pathogenic micro-organisms. The results to date have been very promising with several extracts from plant species, found only in Jamaica, showing significant potential in inhibiting a wide range of micro-organisms, including Klebsiella pneumonia, which was recently reported to be implicated in the death of the premature babies at two of the island’s major hospitals," Dr Watson said. "As new and interesting information emerges from our research findings, as we have promised, we will share these with the public from time to time."

"The findings reported by Dr Lowe’s research team, as well as those previously reported by other scientists globally, give further evidence for the possible broad-spectrum bioactivity of guinea hen weed and its major isolate DTS," said Dr Toyang, as he commented on the potential significance of the research findings.

He also noted that the only available effective treatment regimens for Hepatitis C are mostly beyond the affordability of most patients, as a full course of treatment costs over US$80,000.

"The consequence of not treating the virus is the possible development of liver cirrhosis. The lack of early treatment of Hepatitis C is as such known to be the major cause of Hepatocellular Carcinoma, which is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the world."

According to Dr Henry Lowe, "Although much work is still to be done to take this discovery to a commercial level, the discovery and development of more effective and affordable treatments for the Hepatitis C virus remain a global priority, especially for developing countries."

"We will continue to research, develop and produce nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals from our medicinal plants with special emphasis on ball moss, guinea hen weed and cannabis (ganja)," Dr Lowe said.


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