Plant May Halt Infection from HIV, Ebola Virus

Cistus incanus found to inhibit viral proteins from infecting healthy cells.

A medicinal plant has been discovered that may help prevent HIV, as well as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, from developing.

Antiviral ingredients found in the extracts from the medicinal plant cistus incanus (Ci) have been found to inhibit viral proteins from infecting healthy cells.

Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen found that the activity of Ci extracts was able to act against HIV-1 and HIV-2 isolates, as well as a virus isolate that is resistant against drugs that are available.

"Antiviral ingredients of Ci extracts target viral envelope proteins on infectious particles and prevent them from contacting host cells," said lead researcher Ruth Brack-Werner. "Since antiviral activity of Ci extracts differs from all clinically approved drugs, Ci-derived products could be an important complementation to current established drug regimens."

The results of the study showed that during long-term treatment with Ci extract — approximately 24 weeks —no resistant viruses were detected.

Since the study suggests that Ci is able to attack HIV without causing any resistance, they believe that commercial extracts like Ci or Pelargonium sidoides are promising for developing antiviral phytotherapeutics.

An analysis of the antiviral components of the extract showed it could block viral particles that carry Marburg and Ebola viral envelope proteins. Researchers found that the presence of multiple antiviral ingredients could act in combination. These findings show that Ci can work against human viral pathogens, including influenza viruses.

With further development of these extracts, it could potentially put a dent in preventing and healing viral infections. In the future, the extracts could be used to develop creams or gels (microbicides) that can prevent transmissible viruses like HIV from spreading during intercourse.

The team will continue to focus on exploring the potential of these plant-based antivirals using humans to study the active antiviral ingredients.