New herpes treatment from common herb

A new anti-herpes agent derived from a common herb effectively treats and prevents the disease in animals. Researchers from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia present their data today at the 103rd General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

“Prunella vulgaris [also known as self-heal] is a perennial plant commonly found in China, the British Isles, Europe, and North America. In herbal literature, P. vulgaris has been described as a hot water infusion to treat sores in the mouth and throat, as an astringent for internal and external purposes, as a crude anti-cancer drug, and as a herbal remedy to lower high blood pressure,” says Song Lee, one of the researchers on the study.

Lee and his colleagues extracted a lignin-carbohydrate compound from the plant, which was incorporated into a topical cream and tested on mice and guinea pigs with experimental herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) infections. Guinea pigs receiving the lignin-carbohydrate complex cream treatment showed a significant reduction in skin lesions compared to those that received no treatment. Mice receiving the lignin-carbohydrate complex cream treatment showed a significant increase in survival rate compared to animals that received no treatment.

“The anti-HSV compound from P. vulgaris is a novel lignin-carbohydrate complex with potent activity against HSV-1 and HSV-2 and has a different anti-herpes mechanism than acyclovir, the current clinical anti-herpes drug,” says Lee. “Given the high incidence of herpes infection and the emergence of acyclovir-resistant strains of herpes viruses, the Prunella lignin-carbohydrate complex may prove to be a useful new anti-herpes drug.”

This release is a summary of a presentation from the 103rd General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, May 18-22, 2003, in Washington, DC. Additional information on these and other presentations at the 103rd ASM General Meeting can be found online at http://www.asm.org/Media/index.asp?bid=17053 or by contacting Jim Sliwa (jsliwa@asmusa.org) in the ASM Office of Communications. The phone number for the General Meeting Press Room is (202) 249-4064 and will be active from 12:00 noon EDT, May 18 until 12:00 noon EDT, May 22.

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