Turmeric found stop RVF virus from multiplying

Turmeric found to stop RVF virus from multiplying

10:21 AM, 22nd August 2012
Turmeric found to stop RVF virus from multiplying
Turmeric is often used as a spice in curry dishes.

VIRGINIA, US: The popular spice turmeric packs more than just flavour - it shows promise in fighting devastating viruses, Mason researchers recently discovered. Curcumin, found in turmeric, stopped the potentially deadly Rift Valley Fever virus (RVF) from multiplying in infected cells, said Aarthi Narayanan, Assistant Professor, Mason’s National Centre for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases. Mosquito-borne RVF virus is an acute, fever-causing virus that affects domestic animals such as cattle, sheep and goats, as well as humans.

“Growing up in India, I was given turmeric all the time. Every time my son has a throat infection, I give turmeric to him,” said Narayanan. There’s more work to do before curcumin-based pharmaceuticals become commonplace, Narayanan emphasizes. She plans to test 10 different versions of curcumin to determine which one works the best. She also intends to apply the research to other viruses, including HIV.

Narayanan has long wanted to explore the infection-fighting properties of turmeric, in particular its key component, curcumin. “It is often not taken seriously because it’s a spice,” she added. But science is transforming the spice from folk medicine to one that could help a patient’s body fight off a virus because it can prevent the virus from taking over healthy cells. These ‘broad-spectrum inhibitors’ work by defeating a wide array of viruses.

“Curcumin is, by its very nature, broad spectrum. However we provide evidence that curcumin may interfere with how the virus manipulates the human cell to stop the cell from responding to the infection,” said Narayanan. Narayanan and her colleagues study the connection between a virus and how it impacts the host - human or animal.

“Many times, the body goes above and beyond what is necessary. And that’s not good because it’s going to influence a bunch of cells around the infection, which haven’t seen the bug. That’s one way by which disease spreads through your body. And so it is very important to control the host because a lot of times the way the host responds contributes to the disease,” said Narayanan.

Once Narayanan knows how the body responds to a virus, it’s time to go after the bug itself. She’s applying this know-how to a family of viruses called Bunyaviruses, which feature RVF, and such alphaviruses as Venezuelan equine encephalitis and retroviruses, which notably include HIV. She delves into uncovering why and how each virus affects the patient. “Why are some cell types more susceptible to one type of infection than another?”

HIV goes after the immune system. Bunyaviruses will infect a wide range of cells but do maximum damage to the liver. “What is it about the liver that makes it a sitting duck compared to something like the brain?” Narayanan asked. Ultimately, curcumin could be part of drug therapies that help defeat these viruses, she said. “I know this works. I know it works because I have seen it happen in real life. I eat it every day. I make it a point of adding it to vegetables I cook. Every single day,” said Narayanan.

© George Mason University News

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