Bark of Neem tree being evaluated for treatment of COVID-19
Extract from the bark of the Neem tree is being studied to reduce and treat the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The study, published by Virology, was led by scientists at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata. Researchers found that components of Neem bark may target a wide range of viral proteins, suggesting its potential as an antiviral agent against emerging variants of coronaviruses (including SARS-CoV-2).
Indigenous to India, the Neem tree is known for antiparasitic, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. The bark extract has helped treat malaria, stomach and intestinal ulcers, skin diseases, among others.
Researchers in India assessed the extract in animal models and the results revealed that it had antiviral properties against COVID-19. Using computer modeling, the researchers predicted that Neem bark extract will bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein at various locations, preventing virus entry to host cells.
In addition, at CU Anschutz, the extract was evaluated in SARS-COV-2 human lung cells. Researchers found it to be as effective as a preventive drug for infection while also decreasing virus replication and spread after infection.
“The goal of this research is to develop a Neem-based medication that can reduce the risk of serious illness when someone is infected with coronaviruses,” said study co-author Maria Nagel, MD, research professor in the department of neurology and ophthalmology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
“We hope that scientists won’t have to continuously develop new therapies every time a new SARS-CoV-2 variant emerges,” she said in a statement. “Just like how we take penicillin for strep throat, we envision taking the Neem-based drug for COVID, allowing us to resume our normal lives without fear of hospitalization and death.”
Nagel said the next step in her research is to identify the specific components in Neem bark extract that are antiviral. She said her team believes that it will be effective on emerging variants with spike mutations. “We will then determine the formulation of dosage for an antiviral drug to treat coronavirus infections.”