A public health expert and virologist at the University of Lagos, Professor Sunday Omilabu, has said that like other viral diseases, a cure for COVID-19 may be in medicinal plants and will only require that such undergo multi-centre clinical trials to ascertain their efficacy and toxicity before they are included in the treatment of people with the disease.
Professor Omilabu, who spoke at a virtual meeting with the theme ‘Antiviral Herbal Remedies: COVID-19 in Focus’ by the Model Herbal Clinic, University of Lagos, to commemorate the second decade of African Traditional Medicine Day, said there are many herbal remedies for many illnesses and a viral disease like COVID-19 would not be an exemption.
He stated that a challenge to such an antiviral herbal treatment would include determining its dosage, its active ingredients, mechanism of action and possible interactions with other organs of the body before it could be fully adopted for the treatment of individuals with COVID-19 infection.
According to Professor Omilabu, although diseases are emerging and re-emerging in the world and the risk of emergence is most likely from coronaviruses, arboviruses and influenza viruses, the threat of COVID-19 is global, but the answer is local.
He declared that stopping epidemics like COVID-19 in the future would require governments anticipating and preparing to stop the next emerging pandemic at the origin as well as funding research on reemerging viral diseases.
Director, Indigenous Knowledge-based Technology Innovation unit, Department of Science and Technology, South Africa, Dr Aunkh Chabalala, in his keynote address stated that work is ongoing on 20 herbal remedies with different formulations for COVID-19 in South Africa.
According to him, the emphasis of researchers is on developing antiviral therapies and immune modulators that can work in singly or in a combination as well as nutritional supplements to treat COVID-19.
Dr Chabalala declared that a clinical study of an antiviral herbal remedy is soon to start in South Africa.
He, however, stressed the need for African countries to support the development and research into traditional medicine as well as expedite the registration and inclusion of herbal medicines into the essential medicine list so that they can be used in various health facilities.
Dr Chabalala said commercializing herbal medicine would also require that a good manufacturing practice be developed for the products because African countries bear the highest-burden of many diseases.
Board Chairman, Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board (LSTMB) Professor Adebukola Adefule-Ositelu stressed the need for an increase collaboration between traditional medical practitioners and conventional medical practitioners to ensure sustainable health.
Acting Head of Department of Pharmacognosy, University of Lagos, Mrs Adeola Adegun said the theme was chosen to draw attention to the need for research and development on herbal medicine with the rising impact of COVID-19 in Africa.
She said it was time for Africa to bring ideas and best practices from traditional medicine to tackle this challenge and also promote traditional medicine.
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