Turmeric – a role in malaria treatment?

tumeric-b-sm.JPGFrom time to time news stories appear that stress the healing powers of common herbs and spices. The value of turmeric (curcumin), the yellow powder used in many Indian dishes, has again been promoted on the web.We have talked about the importance of continued research for new malaria drugs. PubMed offers some studies that have looked at the effect of turmeric on malaria.

In 2005 Reddy and colleagues showed that, “curcumin, a polyphenolic organic molecule derived from turmeric, inhibits chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum growth in culture in a dose dependent manner … Additionally, oral administration of curcumin to mice infected with malaria parasite (Plasmodium berghei) reduces blood parasitemia by 80-90% and enhances their survival significantly. Thus, curcumin may represent a novel treatment for malarial infection.”

Nandakumar et al. (2006) reported that, “Artemisinin and curcumin show an additive interaction in killing Plasmodium falciparum in culture. In vivo, 3 oral doses of curcumin following a single injection of alpha,beta-arteether to Plasmodium berghei-infected mice are able to prevent recrudescence due to alpha,beta-arteether monotherapy and ensure almost 100% survival of the animals.”

Concern about multi-drug resistant parasites led Cui et al. (2007) to explore the effects of curcumin on malaria. Observing from previous research that, “Among its antiprotozoan activities, curcumin was potent against both chloroquine-sensitive and -resistant Plasmodium falciparum strains,” these authors found curcumin displaying cytotoxicity for malaria parasites.

The most recently reported research by Martinelli and colleagues (2008) put something of a damper on the subject. They report that, “Recent studies have proposed curcumin as a potential partner for artemisinin in artemisinin combination therapies to treat malaria infections. The efficacy of curcumin alone and in combination with artemisinin was evaluated on a clone of Plasmodium chabaudi selected for artemisinin resistance in vivo. The addition of piperine as an enhancer of curcumin activity was also tested. Results indicated that curcumin, both alone and in combination with piperine had only a modest antimalarial effect and was not able to reverse the artemisinin-resistant phenotype or significantly affect growth of the tested clone when used in combination with artemisinin. This is in contrast with previous in vivo work and calls for further experimental evaluation of the antimalarial potential of curcumin.”

Their call for further research should be heeded … and funded.

  • Cui L, Miao J, Cui L. Cytotoxic effect of curcumin on malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum: inhibition of histone acetylation and generation of reactive oxygen species. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2007 Feb;51(2):488-94. Epub 2006 Dec 4.
  • Martinelli A, Rodrigues LA, Cravo P. Plasmodium chabaudi: efficacy of artemisinin + curcumin combination treatment on a clone selected for artemisinin resistance in mice. Exp Parasitol. 2008 Jun;119(2):304-7. Epub 2008 Mar 7.
  • Nandakumar DN, Nagaraj VA, Vathsala PG, Rangarajan P, Padmanaban G.. Curcumin-artemisinin combination therapy for malaria. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2006 May;50(5):1859-60.
  • Reddy RC, Vatsala PG, Keshamouni VG, Padmanaban G, Rangarajan PN. Curcumin for malaria therapy. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Jan 14;326(2):472-4.

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