Project Lead(s): Patrick Were
Malaria has an estimated global incidence of about 500 million clinical cases annually and a corresponding mortality of up to 2.7 million.
The disease is prevalent in tropical countries, with sub-Saharan Africa bearing over 80% of the world’s malaria.
The aim of the project team was to develop phytomedicines and pharmaceutical products for use against malaria, using selected popular medicinal plants from Kenya and Nigeria.
Nearly 75% of Africans use herbal medicine, as they cannot access or afford conventional medicines.
By accessing medicinal plants already in use, the project undertook to add value and make them more accessible by producing the phytomedicine hygienically while, at the same time, dealing with dosage, packaging, formulation and safety challenges.
The team started by identifying useful plants already in use among the Kenyan communities.
Plant materials were extracted and tested in vitro and in vivo to establish their viability as treatment against malaria.
Malarial parasites were exposed to medicinal plant extracts and growth inhibition measured.
Results obtained confirmed that the selected plants do possess potent antimalarial activities that could be harnessed.
The pharmaceutical potential of the selected plants was demonstrated by determining the phytoconstituents of the extracts.
The antimalarial effects observed can be attributed to secondary metabolites, such as alkaloids, flavonoids and sesquiterpenes found in the extracts.
The research team established a medicinal tree nursery to nurture medicinal tree seedlings. Training of herbalists on modern agronomical practices and how to add value to the herbal medicines they administer was also undertaken.
Further validation and formulation of a phytomedicine requires that all safety issues and dosage forms are established.
This is currently underway through drug escalation tests, and preclinical safety and efficacy studies in baboons at the Institute of Primate Research (IPR).