Indexed on: 03 Jan '06Published on: 03 Jan '06Published in: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Enveloped animal viruses such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, human papillomavirus, Marburg, and influenza are major public health concerns around the world. The prohibitive cost of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for most HIV-infected patients in sub-Saharan Africa and the serious side effects in those who have access to ARV drugs make a compelling case for the study of complementary and alternative therapies. Such therapies should have scientifically proved antiviral activity and minimal toxic effects. A plant extract, Secomet-V, with an anecdotal indication in humans for promise as an anti-HIV treatment, was investigated. Using a previously described attenuated vaccinia virus vGK5, we established the antiviral activity of Secomet-V. Chemical analysis showed that it has an acidic pH, nontoxic traces of iron (<10 ppm), and almost undetectable levels of arsenic (<1.0 ppm). The color varies from colorless to pale yellow to dark brown. The active agent is heat stable at least up to sterilizing temperature of 121 degrees C. The crude plant extract is a mixture of several small molecules separable by high-pressure liquid chromatography. The HIV viral loads were significantly reduced over several months in a few patients monitored after treatment with Secomet-V. Secomet-V was also found to have antiviral activity against the SARS virus but not against the West Nile virus. Secomet-V, therefore, is a broad-spectrum antiviral, which possibly works by neutralizing viral infectivity, resulting in the prevention of viral attachment.