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Indian wild plants explored as source of new antibiotics

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Indian wild plants as antibiotics show promise

Scientists recently explored Indian wild plants for developing new antibiotics.

The authors chose to study cancer patients who are susceptible to life-threatening infections from the effects of cancer treatment and often require antibiotics to treat secondary infections. The findings showed herbal remedies that are based in folklore have medicinal properties that could lead to new antibiotics.

In the study, several plants used in traditional folk medicine were found to have broad spectrum antibiotic properties that could fight bacterial and fungal infections.

Scientists from Rohtak, India studied 40 patients, 35 of whom had low neutrophil counts, indicating compromised immune system function and infection. The patients were undergoing radiation treatment at the Regional Cancer Institute, Pt. B.D.S. Health University, Rohtak, Haryana.

Dr Jaya Parkash Yadav, study author said the finding is a “starting point” for finding plant based medicines that can be developed to fight bacteria that are becoming increasing resistant to antibiotics.

Eight Indian wild plants combat potent bacteria

The research team discovered desert date and castor oil plant extracts combat the opportunistic infection Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Both have been used in folk medicine to treat a variety of disorders. The beans of the castor oil plant are highly toxic and contain the toxin ricin.

Dr. Yadav explained, “…we found that the extraction process had a huge effect on both the specificity and efficacy of the plant extracts against microbes.

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Nevertheless several of the plants tested were broad spectrum antibiotics able to combat bacteria including E. coli, S. aureus and the fungi Candida and Aspergillus. Both desert date and castor oil plant were especially able to target bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which are known to be difficult to treat with conventional antibiotics."

Wild asparagus, desert date, false daisy, curry tree, castor oil plant and fenugreek were all Indian wild plants shown to have anti-fungal and antibiotic properties against bacteria cultured from the cancer patients.

Several of the plant extracts showed promise for fighting E. coli, Staph aureus and the fungi Candida and Aspergillus.

Wild onion, asparagus, B. aegyptiaca, Eclipta alba, curry leaf and Pedalium murex were among the Indian plants studied that the authors say, “showed significant antimicrobial activity (P

Staphylococcus aureus (23.2%), Escherichia coli (15.62%), Staphylococcus epidermidis (12.5%), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (9.37%), Klebsiella pneumonia (7.81%), Proteus mirabilis (3.6%), Proteus vulgaris (4.2%), Candida albicans (14.6%) and Aspergillus fumigatus (9.37%) were pathogens prevalent in the patients that potentially could be treated with herbal Indian remedies from wild plants.

Yadav said, "Although the plants tested had a lower potency than conventional antibiotics they offer hope against resistant species. These results are a starting point for further testing in the lab and clinic." Ten of the plants studied were found to have antibiotic properties that the authors concluded could be developed to treat infection in susceptible cancer patients. The study adds to growing research that herbs, food and other natural compounds can help humans combat disease.

BMC Infectious Disease
Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobial
“In vitro antimicrobial activity of ten medicinal plants against clinical isolates of oral cancer cases”

Image source: Wikimedia commons