The look for both a cure and a vaccine for the coronavirus has intensified around the globe, with Kenya not being left behind. Medical researchers are racing to find out the elusive remedy. The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and The Institute of Primate Researchers (IPRs) have stepped up efforts.
Currently IPRs is testing the efficacy of an extract from a plant known as Ajuga remota, known as Wanjiru wa Rurii in Kikuyu. While KEMRI’s Zedupex that was developed in 2015 by Kenyan researchers and has been used in the treatment of herpes has already undergone its first review and is currently being evaluated before being given final approvals for treatment of COVID-19
Ajuga remota has traditionally been used by the Kikuyu, Embu and Mbeere communities to treat malaria.
Dr Atunga Nyachieo, the chief of research at IPR, said that apart from testing the effectiveness of the herbs in controlling the spread of the virus, the centre is formulating an immune booster to help those who might already be infected.
According to Dr. Mwitari of KEMRI, they have received several enquiries from traditional medicine practitioners who claim to have medicinal plants that may help in the management of Covid-19, but that they cannot be allowed access to Covid-19 patients as their herbs have no scientific proof of efficiency.
KEMRI is currently awaiting necessary approvals on a second proposal that seeks to bring on board herbalists or Kenyans who may have knowledge of a medicinal plant that has antiviral properties which may be researched on efficiency to manage some of the symptoms associated with Covid-19.
Dr. Kefa Bosire an ethnobiologist, based at the University of Nairobi, also has reservations about traditional cures, saying that production might be a problem. “The immediate challenge we might face is getting enough quantities of the plant to extract medicine and supply to patients whom are in need on a short notice, like we’ve experienced during this pandemic,” Bosire said. “So, this would require a lot of work to go into identifying the best way to upscale the growing and collection of these materials.”
Despite these hurdles, researchers at KEMRI and IPRs are pressing ahead with their studies of herbal treatments for COVID-19. By Sunday 14th June 2020, Kenya had recorded 3594 positive cases, 1253 recoveries and 103 deaths.
By Emmanuel Masheti
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