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 test tubes for Babesia duncani, a malarial disease similar parasites that are highly active on the west coast of the United States and that cause 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 illnesses are increasingly pursuing complementary and alternative medicine to improve overall health or quality of life. We hope this data provides inspiration for other researchers to further explore similar options for people with persistent tick-borne diseases that do not respond to current treatments. “
Dr. Sunjya K. Schweig, founder and director of the California Center for Functional Medicine
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 suffered from 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. “
Zhang, Y. et al. (2021) Botanical medicinal products Cryptolepis sanguinolenta, Artemisia annua, Scutellaria baicalensis, Polygonum cuspidatum and Alchornea cordifolia show an inhibitory effect against Babesia duncani. Limits in cell and infection microbiology. doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2021.624745.