Echinacea inhibits influenza viruses in vitro, no resistance: study

Echinacea pur­pu­rea

Luebeck/​Germany (bb) – A spe­cial extra­ct of the tra­di­tio­nal­ly used medi­cinal plant Echinacea pur­pu­rea exerts a potent anti­vi­ral acti­vi­ty in vitro, accor­ding to Prof. Dr. Ste­phan Plesch­ka, Uni­ver­si­ty of Giessen/​Germany. Both the virus inhi­bi­ting acti­vi­ty of Echinacea, which was stu­di­ed by his group, and the only recent­ly dis­co­ver­ed inflamm­a­ti­on modu­la­ting and anti­bac­te­ri­al effects of the her­bal extra­ct could extend the pre­ven­ti­ve and the­ra­peu­tic spec­trum of anti­vi­ral drugs, inclu­ding influenza.

Stu­dy The aim of the in vitro-stu­dy pre­sen­ted at an inter­na­tio­nal Con­fe­rence on Anti­vi­rals (ICAV‑9) in Lue­beck (1) was to eva­lua­te both the anti­vi­ral acti­vi­ty of a stan­dar­di­zed Echinacea pre­pa­ra­ti­on against dif­fe­rent influ­en­za viru­s­es and the pos­si­ble mecha­nism respon­si­ble for this. Plesch­ka and col­le­agues used renal epi­the­li­al cells (MDCK cells) as cel­lu­lar infec­tion model. All tes­ted influ­en­za strains (inclu­ding the new pan­de­mic H1N1 strain) were cli­ni­cal­ly rele­vant, some high­ly patho­ge­nic and a few with pan­de­mic poten­ti­al (A/​Thailand/​KAN‑1/​04 (H5N1), A/​FPV/​Bratislava/​79 (H7N7), A/​Hamburg/​1/​09 (H1N1)). The echinacea fresh plant extra­ct was added to the cul­tu­red cells at dif­fe­rent times and in vary­ing con­cen­tra­ti­ons. After viral ino­cu­la­ti­on, the ext­ent of infec­tion inhi­bi­ti­on was measured.

Results It was found that all tes­ted viral strains were almost com­ple­te­ly inac­ti­va­ted by the echinacea fresh plant extra­ct. The neces­sa­ry extra­ct con­cen­tra­ti­on for the inhi­bi­ti­on of viral infec­ti­vi­ty was far below under the recom­men­ded dosa­ge for oral appli­ca­ti­on of the respec­ti­ve echinacea pro­duct. Fur­ther tests show­ed that the H5N1 strain had deve­lo­ped no resis­tance against echinacea, even not after mul­ti­ple cell cul­tu­re rounds. In con­trol expe­ri­ments, the viru­s­es were trea­ted with the neu­r­a­mi­ni­da­se inhi­bi­tor osel­ta­mi­vir. In this case, almost all viru­s­es deve­lo­ped resis­tance with the third pas­sa­ge. Howe­ver, even the­se osel­ta­mi­vir-resistant viru­s­es, Plesch­ka said, were com­ple­te­ly inhi­bi­ted by the echinacea extra­ct. The rese­arch in the pos­si­ble mecha­nisms show­ed that the echinacea extra­ct non­spe­ci­fi­cal­ly inac­ti­va­tes the viral sur­face pro­te­in hem­ag­glu­ti­nin and thus the viral adhe­si­on to the cel­lu­lar HA-recep­tors, which final­ly inhi­bits a cen­tral patho­ge­ne­tic step of influ­en­za infections.

Sum­ma­ry The­se insights into the mole­cu­lar mecha­nisms of the echinacea anti­mi­cro­bi­al effects con­firm ear­lier obser­va­tions on the medi­cal use in this regard – espe­ci­al­ly acu­te infec­tions, inflamm­a­ti­ons and infec­tion risks fol­lo­wing trau­ma­tic inju­ries. It seems, that the often-cited sti­mu­la­ti­on of the immu­ne sys­tem is less important for the­se effects, then both a non-spe­ci­fic inhi­bi­ti­on of infec­tion (both viral and bac­te­ri­al) and a sym­ptoms reli­e­ving nor­ma­liza­ti­on of exces­si­ve inflamm­a­to­ry respon­ses (“cyto­ki­ne storm”). The the­ra­peu­tic rele­van­ce of the spe­ci­fic echinacea fresh plant extra­ct in the­se indi­ca­ti­ons should now be fur­ther evaluated.

Plant extra­ct A stan­dar­di­zed alco­ho­lic extra­ct of fresh herb (95%) and roots (5%) of the tra­di­tio­nal medi­cinal plant Echinacea pur­pu­rea (L.) Moench (Echina­force®, A. Vogel Bio­f­orce AG, Switz­er­land) was tes­ted. In many count­ries the appro­ved indi­ca­ti­ons main­ly con­cern the pre­ven­ti­on and tre­at­ment of infec­tions inclu­ding com­mon cold. In addi­ti­on to anti-viral effects (2), the extra­ct used has anti-bac­te­ri­al and mark­ed anti-inflamm­a­to­ry pro­per­ties (3).

Lite­ra­tu­re (1) Inter­na­tio­nal Con­fe­rence on Anti­vi­rals for Negle­c­ted and Emer­ging Viru­s­es (9th ICAV Sym­po­si­um). Luebeck/​Germany, Octo­ber 10 – 13, 2010 (
(2) Plesch­ka S, Stein M, Schoop R, Hud­son JB: Anti-viral pro­per­ties and mode of action of stan­dar­di­zed Echinacea pur­pu­rea extra­ct against high­ly patho­ge­nic avi­an influ­en­za virus (H5N1, H7N7) and swi­ne-ori­gin H1N1 (S‑OIV). Virol J. 2009 Nov 13;6:197.
(3) Shar­ma SM, Ander­son M, Schoop SR, Hud­son JB: Bac­te­ri­ci­dal and anti-inflamm­a­to­ry pro­per­ties of a stan­dar­di­zed Echinacea extra­ct (Echina­force): dual actions against respi­ra­to­ry bac­te­ria. Phy­to­me­di­ci­ne. 2010 July; 17(8–9): 563–8.

Sci­en­tist Prof. Dr. Ste­phan Plesch­ka is a viro­lo­gist at the Jus­tus Lie­big-Uni­ver­si­ty in Giessen/​Germany. Important sci­en­ti­fic acti­vi­ties in viro­lo­gy and micro­bio­lo­gy are:
* Iden­ti­fi­ca­ti­on, cha­rac­te­riza­ti­on and assess­ment of viral and cel­lu­lar fac­tors and mecha­nisms regu­la­ting viral mul­ti­pli­ca­ti­on in infec­ted cells and thus influence the viral replication.
* Viral spread and con­se­cu­ti­ve immu­ne reac­tions of infec­ted hosts inclu­ding infec­tion syn­dro­mes in dif­fe­rent ani­mal models.
* In addi­ti­on to his rese­arch in patho­ge­ne­sis of influ­en­za and new the­ra­peu­tic approa­ches, other rele­vant work appli­es to the importance of influ­en­za for lung dise­a­ses and the inna­te immunity.

Key words infec­tion blo­cka­de, virus inhi­bi­ti­on, anti­vi­ral, anti­bac­te­ri­al, inflamm­a­ti­on modu­la­ti­on, Echinacea pur­pu­rea (L.) MOENCH, Echina­force, fresh plant extra­ct, hem­ag­glu­ti­nin, mole­cu­lar mecha­nisms, influ­en­za, pan­de­mic, pro­phy­la­xis, resis­tance, swi­ne flu, dise­a­se con­trol, therapy

• Rai­ner H. Buben­zer, Heil­pflan­­zen-Welt (19.10.2010).

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