An Indian medicinal plant may be one of the most effective ways of treating disorders caused by the Hepatitis B virus, according to new research. Clinical trials using a drug based on the Keezhanali plant were conducted at the University of Madras in South India and the Scottish Centre for Infection in Glasgow.
The results are believed to be better than any drug so far used to treat Hepatitis B - which is more than 100 times more infectious than HIV. Researchers say Keezhanali - or Phyllanthus Amarus to use its botanical name - stopped the Hepatitis B virus from multiplying and cleared up symptoms within a month in 30% of all cases they studied.
Hepatitis B is common in Asia, particularly in the sub-continent and China, and traditional Indian medical practice has long-standing methods for its treatment.
Dr S Thiagrajan, who began the research nearly two decades ago, says "This plant has been used conventionally in folklore medicine as a paste for treating jaundice cases. At that point of time, we had Hepatitis B as an easier viral model for studying in the lab. That is why we took it up and we had good convincing evidence by in-vitro studies that this plant extract is able to inactivate the virus," he added.
According to Dr Thiagranjan, the new drug scores over the two main drugs used to treat the virus - Lamuvidime and Interferon - because it is highly affordable and does not have the usual side-effects such as aches and pains and hair loss.The new drug is expected to be put on the Indian market by early next year, after which it will move to pharmaceutical counters around the world.