Artemisia annua to be tested against coronavirus
An international collaboration will conduct laboratory cell studies with plant extracts
The Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam (Germany) will collaborate with ArtemiLife Inc., a US based company and medical researchers in Denmark and Germany to test Artemisia annua plant extract and artemisinin derivatives in laboratory cell studies against the novel coronavirus Sars-CoV-2.
Currently, there are no effective treatments against Covid-19. Medications commonly used against malaria or Ebola, as well as antiviral drugs, are being considered for repurposing. Herbal treatments used in Traditional Chinese Medicine were explored to treat coronavirus infections during the Sars-CoV and Mers-CoV outbreaks. Initial studies in China showed the alcoholic extract of sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua) was the second most potent herbal medicine used on the 2005 Sars-CoV.
"I am excited about the international collaboration of academic and private sector scientists to conduct cell study testing of Artemisia annua against coronavirus.” said Peter H. Seeberger, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam.
Covid-19 is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (Sars-CoV-2), a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus that is contagious in humans. Like the Sars-related coronavirus strain implicated in the early 2000’s Sars outbreak, Sars-CoV-2 is a member of the same subgenus. Sars-CoV-2 is unique among known beta-coronaviruses in its incorporation of a polybasic cleavage site, a characteristic known to increase pathogenicity and transmissibility in other viruses.
Artemisia annua extracts show very little toxicity
“Given the similarities between those two viruses, plant extracts and artemisinin derivatives need to be tested against the new coronavirus and this international collaboration makes it possible,” continued Seeberger.
The cell study testing will be conducted in research institutions in Denmark and Germany with the plant extract from Artemisia annua and pure derivatives isolated from the plant such as artemisinin. Treatments containing an artemisinin derivative, artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), are now standard treatments worldwide for malaria. Artemisia annua extracts show very little toxicity and artemisinin-based drugs are widely used to treat malaria even in newborns.
ArtemiLife Inc., a US based company, is providing the necessary plant material for the studies. "We've been studying Artemisia annua and cultivating our fields with agriculture experts in Kentucky over the past few years. We’re privileged to have the opportunity to collaborate with the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in these studies," said Adam J. Maust, ArtemiLife Inc. CEO.