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PORTOLA VALLEY, CA, March 9, 2021 – The Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the United States, today announced the release of new data showing five herbal medicines compared to commonly used Antibiotics in the test show strong activity against Babesia duncani, a malaria-like parasite on the west coast of the USA that causes the disease babesiosis. The laboratory study, published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, was funded in part by the Bay Area Lyme Foundation. The collaborating researchers were from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the California Center for Functional Medicine, and the FOCUS Health Group, Naturopathic.
“This research is particularly important because babesiosis poses a significant health risk. With limited therapeutics and an increase in resistance to treatment, current treatments for the disease are inadequate and many patients rely on herbal therapies for which there is little evidence of effectiveness,” said Co-author Sunjya K. Schweig, MD, founder and director of the California Center for Functional Medicine, and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, which has also studied herbal treatments for Lyme disease.
“Americans with chronic diseases are increasingly pursuing complementary and alternative medicine to improve overall health or quality of life. We hope this data provides inspiration to other researchers to further explore similar options for people with persistent unresponsive tick-borne diseases to investigate current treatments, “added Dr. Silence added.
While current treatment protocols for babesiosis recommend the use of antibiotics such as atovaquone, azithromycin, clindamycin, quinine, and combinations thereof, these treatment regimens are often associated with treatment errors and significant side effects, even in immunocompetent patients. In addition, epidemiological studies have documented that up to 23% of patients with babesiosis had Lyme disease and its disabling effects at the same time.
According to this laboratory study, the five herbal medicines that have shown inhibitory effects against B. duncani are:
- Cryptolepis sanguinolenta
- Artemisia annua (sweet wormwood)
- Scutellaria baicalensis (Chinese skullcap)
- Alchornea cordifolia (African Christmas bush)
- Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)
The study also discovered that the bioactive compounds derived from Cryptolepis sanguinolenta, Artemisia annua and Scutellaria baicalensis had comparable or even better activity against B. duncani than the commonly used antimicrobial drugs quinine and clindamycin.
This is the first study to report the antibabesial activity of Scutellaria baicalensis. However, the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects of Alchornea cordifolia and Polygonum cuspidatum extracts have already been documented, and other studies have found benefits of combining active ingredients such as compounds from Cryptolepis sanguinolenta and an artemisinin-based therapy.
These compounds have yet to be tested in vitro and in animal models as well as in clinical studies. While each of these botanical medicines is already in clinical use, it is important for future studies to evaluate them directly in patients using certain clinical treatment regimens, as each has the potential to cause side effects in patients and should only be taken under the supervision of a clinician who knows about their abilities and toxicities.
“Herbal medicines have been used successfully by various traditional medical systems and ancient cultures,” said Linda Giampa, executive director of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “Patients with tick-borne diseases often have longer-term symptoms than those with Lyme disease alone, indicating the need for novel treatments for babesiosis, one of the most common tick-borne infections after Lyme disease. We hope The results of this study are an important step in the development of new therapies for physicians and their patients with persistent Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections. “
About the study
The paper entitled “Botanical Medicines Cryptolepis sanguinolenta, Artemisia annua, Scutellaria baicalensis, Polygonum cuspidatum and Alchornea cordifolia show an inhibitory effect against Babesia duncani” was written by Yumin Zhang, Dr. Hector Alvarez-Manzo, Dr. Jacob Leone, Dr. and Ying Zhang, MD, PhD. It was published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, Parasite and Host section.
Researchers tested a number of 46 herbal drug extracts against B. duncani versus the commonly used drugs quinine and clindamycin, both of which are used to treat active babesiosis, a common co-infection with Lyme disease.
Plant extracts selected for the study included herbs or active ingredients that are already in clinical use, previously used to treat symptoms in patients who are unresponsive to standard Lyme antibiotic treatment and who have favorable safety profiles.
The combination of quinine and clindamycin was chosen as a control because this is the treatment regimen recommended for all severe babesiosis infections, including B. duncani. However, in one clinical study it was reported that 72% of patients who received quinine plus clindamycin to treat babesiosis experienced side effects such as tinnitus, dizziness, and gastrointestinal disorders that were in some cases severe enough to require a dose reduction or make it necessary to interrupt treatment.
Most of these natural products in this study were provided as ethanol extracts with 30, 60 and 90% ethanol, and the ethanol solvent was also tested as a control at the respective concentrations. The natural products and ethanol controls were added to 96-well plates containing infected red blood cells to give final concentrations of 0.01%.
In this study, Scutellaria baicalensis showed good test tube activity against B. duncani, with the IC50 (a widely used measure of the effectiveness of a drug) of baicalein being practically the same as that of the antibiotic quinine and up to three times cheaper than the antibiotic clindamycin. Artemisinin and artemisinin derivatives (artesunate and artemether) alone also had IC50 values that were more favorable than those of quinine and clindamycin.
These data suggest that it may be beneficial to use these herbs to fight several different pathogens with co-infections in complex Lyme disease at the same time. The data could also provide a basis for clinical improvement in patients taking herbal medicines, especially those whose chronic symptoms are due to persistent bacteria that are not killed by conventional treatment with Lyme antibiotics. It is important to note, however, that additional studies are needed to further evaluate the five active herbal medicines identified in the study. Patients should not attempt to self-medicate with these herbal medicines due to possible side effects and a lack of clinical studies with these products.
About Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne infectious disease in the country and a potentially debilitating infection caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which are transmitted to humans and pets by the bite of an infected tick. If detected early, most cases of Lyme disease can be treated effectively, but they are often misdiagnosed due to a lack of awareness and unreliable diagnostic tests. There are nearly 500,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year, according to the CDC. Because of the difficulty in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, the Bay Area Lyme Foundation estimates that more than a million Americans may suffer from the effects of its long-term debilitating symptoms and complications.
Babesiosis is a common tick-borne red blood cell infection caused by a malaria-like parasite called babesia. The predominant strains in North America include Babesia duncani, which was first discovered in Washington State and California in the early 1990s, and Babesia microti, which is endemic to the northeast and upper Midwest of the United States. Current diagnostic tests for babesiosis are often inaccurate and there is no reliable treatment. In addition to being transmitted by tick bites, Babesia can also be transmitted vertically from mother to fetus and through infected blood transfusions, which is why the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends testing blood donations for Babesia. Symptoms and pathogenesis may vary depending on the Babesia strain, however symptoms can be similar to Lyme disease. Babesiosis is commonly associated with high fever and chills and includes fatigue, headache, sweats, muscle aches, chest pain, hip pain, and shortness of breath and, in severe cases, can lead to kidney failure.
Via the Bay Area Lyme Foundation
The Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a national organization committed to making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and cure, is a leading nonprofit sponsor of innovative Lyme disease research in the United States. The Bay Area Lyme Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit based in Silicon Valley that works with world-class scientists and institutions to accelerate the medical breakthrough in Lyme disease. It is also dedicated to providing reliable, fact-based information so that prevention and the importance of early treatment are common knowledge. A central donation from the LaureL STEM Fund covers overheads and enables 100% of all donor contributions to the Bay Area Lyme Foundation to be used directly for research and prevention programs. For more information about Lyme disease or to get involved, visit http://www.bayarealyme.org or call us at 650-530-2439.