Reetha effect

By Megha Prakash
Published: Thursday 31 July 2008

besides treating cold and constipation, the medicinal plant reetha is used as a contraceptive, called consap, for women. A study has now attributed another property to this contraceptive. Consap has been found effective against trichomoniasis, a protozoal disease that affects that genitourinary tract. Researchers at Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, who developed Consap from soap nut or reetha in 2003 reported their findings in the June 10 issue of Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

The researchers treated the pathogen (Trichomonas vaginalis) with varying concentrations of saponins (found in various parts of the plant) along with conventional drugs used to treat the disease. The results showed that the protozoa were killed after 12 hours of incubation, at the concentration of 0.005 per cent of saponins. At lower concentrations, the protozoa remained viable even after 48 hours of incubation. The group also tested the effect of saponins on the ability of the protozoa to cling to human cells. Incubation with 0.005 per cent saponins for three hours showed 46 per cent reduction in the ability to adhere, compared to the conventional drug. Presence of saponins also affected the pathogens ability to produce key enzymes. The chemicals did not have any adverse effect on host cells.

"This study demonstrated anti-trichomonas activity of Sapindus saponins at 10-fold lower than its effective spermicidal concentration and thus provides value addition to this product," says Manmohan Singh, former head of the endocrinology division, Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, and the lead author of the study. Clinical trials show that saponins do not have side effects when compared to classical medicines, which report side effects like nausea and dizziness, he adds. "More work needs to be done. Consap's clinical efficacy can only be proved once it is available in the market," says G G Gangadharan, a practicing Ayurvedic physician and joint-director, Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions, Bangalore.

Trichomoniasis can affect both men and women but women are more vulnerable. In India, about 14 per cent females suffer from this disease. Around 180 million people around the world suffer from it. The protozoa has progressively become resistant to classical medicines like metronidazole and tinidazone. Affected women have foul smelling discharge from the vagina. Though men do not have symptoms, they can transmit the disease to women. Pregnant women suffering from trichomoniasis could have premature labour and give birth to underweight children. Infected women can pass the disease to their children. The disease can make the body more susceptible to other infections like cervical cancer and even infertility.

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