Professor Maurice Iwu said a plant commonly eaten in West Africa, popularly known as kola nut can cure the deadly Ebola virus as shown in its tracks during a laboratory tests.
The Professor, who made the revelation while speaking at the 16th International Botanical Congress in St Louis in the United States of America, also disclosed that a compound taken from kola nut plant have also proved effective against some strains of flu.
He stated that if the anti-Ebola compound proves successful in animal and human trials, it will be the first medicine to successfully treat the virus that causes Ebola haemorrhagic fever which is usually a fatal condition.
Iwu, who set up and heads the Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme, led the research that reportedly started 10 years ago, after researchers were led to the plant by traditional native healers who said they have used the plant for the treatment of infectious diseases for centuries.
Prof. Iwu who also came from a family of traditional healers after the tour said: “This is a very exciting discovery. The same forest that yields the dreaded Ebola virus could be a source of the cure.”
He, however, noted that tests are still in the early stages, adding that researchers hope that if the compound continue to prove successful the US Food and Drug Administration will put it on a fast track and produce drugs for humans within a matter of years.
“The discovery of these important properties in a simple compound, flavonoids was very surprising. The structure of this compound lends itself to modification, so it provides a template for future work. Even if this particular drug does not succeed through the whole drug approval process, we can use it to construct a new drug for this deadly disease,” Dr. Iwu said.
He said the Garcinia kola compound has been shown to halt multiplication of the virus in the laboratory, noting that if repeated in humans, it would give the body a chance to fight off the virus.
Meanwhile, Ebola virus was first recorded in 1976 after an outbreak in Zaire now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where 88 per cent of the 318 people that were infected died. Another outbreak in 1995 also claimed the lives of 81% of the 315 infected people. There are four types of the virus: Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan and Ebola-Ivory Coast all affect humans, while Ebola-Reston has so far only affected monkeys and chimpanzees. The virus multiplies rapidly in the human body and quickly overwhelms it, and in advanced cases the patient develops high fever and severe bleeding. It is reported that doctors are unable to curtail the virus once infection has taken over the victim, giving the disease a terrifying reputation.
Maurice Iwu, who is a Professor of Pharmacognosy, was appointed Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in June 2005, and was later removed from office in April 2010. He wrote this article when he was still a Doctor, and the article was first published by the British Broadcasting Corporation on August 5, 1999. He studied at the University of Bradford, England, where got a Master of Pharmacy degree in 1976 and a Ph.D in 1978. The Professor is believed to have since returned to researching after ceding office to the current INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega.