Even as the medical research world is looking at a vaccine and drug for coronavirus, a Kerala-based research institute is exploring the possibility of a plant-based drug to tackle the virus.
Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI), based at Palode in Thiruvananthapuram district, has received the ICMR’s approval for testing the effectiveness of the plant’s extraction for treatment of coronavirus, according to the institute’s director, Dr R Prakashkumar.
The test would be held at National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, he said.
The institute’s ongoing project on “anti-viral from medicinal plants of Western Ghats” had found that a compound from a particular plant extraction is effective against chikungunya and dengue, both viral infections. The extraction has effective anti-virus property, the research found.
The findings on chikungunya and dengue is in the stage of patenting, and the project is supported by the Department of Biotechnology, under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology.
Prakashkumar said: “It is not a preliminary research work. We have a lead molecule (that was) found very effective for chikungunya and dengue. Now we are going to address whether that lead molecule is effective for coronavirus as well. We don’t want to make any predictions; if we get positive result, it would be a major breakthrough,”
Prakashkumar said the name of the plant cannot be disclosed, but it is easily available in Kerala. The plant extraction would not be given to NIV-Pune — instead the compound of the extraction would be handed over for the crucial test. He said, “We already have the stock of the plant extraction. But we will get the plant harvested again for preparing the extraction afresh so that the lab test gets the desired result.’’
Prakashkumar said JNTBGRI will sign an MoU with NIV-Pune for the test, and the Pune institute has already sent a draft of the MoU.
Prakashkumar said they have isolated a molecule and its derivatives. “We had approached ICMR through state Health Secretary Dr Rajan N Khobragade, showing our interest to test this particular molecule against coronavirus. Since the fraction has anti-viral property, it can be checked for coronavirus and its effectiveness can be ascertained,” he said.
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