Title : The role played by phytomedicines in the fight against COVID-19 in Cameroon and Africa
The COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 that erupted in Wuhan China in 2019 has now been reduced greatly in many counties around the World (excepting China where a surge is ongoing) thanks to the development and deployment of accurate diagnostics, effective drugs, and vaccines. Despite the cataclysmic predictions of massive COVID-19 deaths in Africa where heath systems are generally less developed, the African continent has so far registered the least number of cases and deaths as compared to those of developed countries. Several factors including the relatively younger population of Africa, primed immune systems, genetic advantage attributed to the absence of Neanderthal gene that renders Europeans and Asians more susceptible have been evoked to explain Africa’s better performance. Whilst no single factor alone may explain Africa’s performance, we postulated that the wide consumption of phytomedicines may have contributed significantly to Africa’s coping strategies despite the low vaccination rates, limited access to conventional drugs and weak heath systems. To explore this hypothesis, we carried out systematic literature reviews as well as a survey on the role of phytomedicines as a preventive or curative measure for COVID-19. This talk will summarize our findings.
When COVID-19 first appeared as disease, there were no known cures or vaccines. The main approaches to control the infection included barrier measures (lock downs, hand washing, use of face masks etc) and symptomatic treatment of those hospitalised with antioxidant, immunostimulatory drugs and antibiotics.
Since COVID-19 shared flu-like symptoms (including fever, cough, running nose) people in many African countries resorted to the use of plant remedies (steam baths, decoctions) for malaria and other fevers to manage COVID-19. The first of these herbal medicines was Covid Organics from Madagascar, which however, was not well received internationally due to lack of scientific evidence from controlled clinical trials. Subsequently, other herbal medicines were developed and registered in various African countries as complementary treatments of COVID-19. These included: Adsak Covid, Elixir Covid, Corocur powder (Cameroon) IHP Detox Tea (Nigeria) COVIDEX (Uganda) Immunitum & Immu_Top (Togo).
The literature review revealed that many of the plants employed had, not only antioxidant and immune-modulatory activities, but anti-viral activities as well, thereby justifying their use in the management of COVID-19. A recent survey by our group indicated that as many 59 % of participants used herbal remedies as prophylactic or treatment for COVID-19. In conclusion, while phytomedicines played a role in the Africa’s COVID-19 response, further studies are needed to validate and quantify their efficacies and safety.