Root out SARS

Mulethi affects coronavirus

Published: Friday 15 August 2003

it's probably sitting forgotten on your drug shelf as a dusty bunch of darkish roots, but is the miracle cure. Researchers have found that root extracts of mulethi (Glycyrrhiza glabra) can adversely affect the replication of coronavirus that causes the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (sars). The finding provides a boost to India's traditional wisdom.

During their experiments, researchers from Germany-based Institute of Medical Virology and the Frankfurt University Medical School found that glycyrrhizin, the active ingredient of mulethi, is more effective against the virus than other antivirals such as ribavirin and mycophenolic. The researchers observed the effects of all the chemicals on kidney cells of monkeys infected with coronavirus.

They found that along with affecting the virus replication, glycyrrhizin also makes it difficult for the virus to attach and penetrate the cells. In cell cultures treated with 1,000 milligrammes per litre (mg/l) of glycyrrhizin, the production of viral proteins was inhibited; at a concentration of 4,000 mg/l, glycyrrhizin blocked the virus replication.

The researchers are unclear about the how glycyrrhizin affects the virus. It has previously been used against hiv and hepatitis c virus; but side-effects such as high blood pressure were reported among some patients after several months of treatment. Experts say the problem will not arise in the case of sars, as the treatment will be required for a short duration.

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