Ethnomedicinal Antivirals Scope and Opportunity

Debprasad Chattopadhyay Summary

Viral diseases, including emerging, reemerging, and chronic infections, are an increasing health concern throughout the world. As a consequence, the development of new antivirals from plants, particularly from ethnomedicinal practices, has assumed more urgency today. Ethnomedicines provide a diverse range of natural products with antimicrobial and immunomodulating potential. A wide variety of active phytochemicals such as alkaloids, coumarins, essential oils, flavonoids, phy-tosterols, polysaccharides, polyphenols, tannins, saponins, proteins, and peptides from hundreds of plants, culinary herbs, spices and teas have complementary and overlapping mechanisms of action, including inhibition of viral reproduction or genome formation. Immune-related conditions with a high unmet clinical need still exist, along with the problem of increasing antiviral resistance in many viral infections. The ethnomedicinal phytochemicals might be able to provide an alternative to the costly antivirals and immunotherapeutics.

Assay methods to determine in vitro and in vivo antiviral activity are needed to link antiviral efficacy or potency and laboratory-based research. The relative success achieved in the last two decades with such plant extracts which are capable of acting therapeutically in various viral infections, has raised optimism about the future of phytoantiviral agents. This chapter reviews some potentially useful ethnom-edicinal plants and compounds, evaluated and exploited for therapeutic applications against genetically and functionally diverse virus families including Retrovir-idae, Hepadnaviridae, and Herpesviridae causing sexually transmitted viral infections.

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