Humans have always been battling viruses. For some viral diseases, vaccines and antiviral drugs have allowed us to keep infections from spreading widely, and have helped sick people recover. For other deadly diseases , like Ebola or AIDS we were a long way from winning the fight against viruses.
Ebola is known to us since it first struck simultaneously in the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976. Since then an efficacious cure hasn’t been invented and another outbreak of the virus in 2014 has killed 3,850 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, next to the death of more than 10 000 individuals previously killed by Ebola.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) originated in Africa during the 20th century and currently it is one of the most pathogenic new viruses to have emerged in centuries. HIV when not treated can cause AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). It is estimated that nearly 37 million people are now living with HIV from which 2.6 million are under the age of 15. In 2014, an estimated 2 million people were newly infected with HIV from which 220,000 were under the age of 15. Since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly 78 million people have contracted HIV and close to 39 million have died of AIDS-related causes.
Novel therapeutic options are urgently needed to improve global treatment of virus infections. Natural products and herbal medicines are a promising source of new therapeutic agents and for the development of complementary and alternative medicines to conventional drug regimens.
Cistus incanus (Ci) is native to Mediterranean regions of Southern Europe and North Africa and belongs to a different taxonomic order (Malvales) than Pelargonium sidoides (Geraniales). Ci extracts have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antimycotic and antibacterial activities. Ci is rich in polyphenols, a chemical class of compounds that includes many representatives with antimicrobial/antiviral activities. Ci has been used as a traditional medicine for the treatment of various ailments for over a century. Numerous clinical trials showed it efficiency for treatment of symptoms of respiratory tract infections, like influenza viruses and herpes virus.
Several studies revealed that Ci extracts contain numerous active ingredients against HIV and Ebola virus, indicating that antiviral activity of Ci extract extends to emerging viral pathogens. Cystus incants showed broad anti-HIV activity, including HIV-1 and HIV-2 isolates, which previously showed multiple drug resistances to the conventional drugs.
Mode-of-action studies demonstrate that Ci extracts target viral envelope proteins, preventing the primary attachment of the virus to host cells. Cysts incanus extract contains multiple compounds that prevent viruses from entering host cells for replication. The numerous antiviral compounds has favorably low propensity to induce virus resistance. Indeed, no resistant viruses emerged during 24 weeks of continuous propagation of the virus in the presence of Ci extracts.
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