ANALYSIS: Is The Madagascan Herbal Drink A Cure For Malaria Or Coronavirus?
Many Nigerians have jocularly said that the Popular Madagascan organic herbal remedy known as ‘COVID Organics’ may soon feature on the menu list in restaurants in coming days. This speaks more of its acceptability, particularly by a wide range of people who have clamoured for a home-grown cure for the COVID-19 infection.
It is coming at a time when the country’s tally of confirmed cases has exceeded 6,000. The surge does not appear to be stopping anytime soon. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and experts have also opined that it has come to stay.
However, there have been questions on what Africans and the rest of the world are doing to get a vaccine, a drug to properly treat the novel virus. This birthed solidarity trials to hasten the process.
Nothing had sufficed until Madagascar unveiled a herbal remedy recently.
Africa is home for Nigerians, hence the decision to embrace the Malagasy COVID Organics (CVO), an organic herbal beverage believed to be capable of preventing or curing the virus. The testimony of Madagascar, whether genuine or counterfeit, also contributed to the fuss that came with the launch of the anti-killer-disease cure.
The country, as at the time of the launch, had not recorded any single death with an impressive recovery rate. The president of Madagascar had urged citizens to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus by drinking the organic herbal beverage.
“Let’s drink this herbal tea to protect ourselves, to protect our family and our neighbours […] and there will be no more deaths,” Andry Rajoelina said in a speech last Sunday, according to a local daily, L’express de Madagascar.
The East African country also sent out this herbal cure to Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries and orders have since been dispatched to several other countries, including Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger and Tanzania.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari had promised to validate the potency of the herbal cure, some have expressed high hopes that it is the cure the whole world is waiting for.
Nonetheless, when Matshidiso Moeti at the WHO Regional Office for Africa was asked during a press conference whether the WHO had any data or evidence of its efficacy, she said: “No, we do not.”
The unproven COVID-Organics drink developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research is reportedly made from Artemisia annua (sweet wormwood) and herbs.
Artemisia annua extracts, according to experts, show very little toxicity and artemisinin-based drugs are widely used to treat malaria even in newborns. Nevertheless, scientists around the world are putting the herbal remedy to test.
Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, in Potsdam, are partnering with a U.S. company, ArtemiLife, to test an extract from the plant Artemisia annua to determine its effectiveness in speeding up recovery from the virus.
“We are working with two independent laboratories to ensure the highest possible quality and exclude any bias in the results,” Peter Seeberger, lead researcher, told VOA in an email response.
Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that a herbal drink promoted by the president of Madagascar as a cure for COVID-19 should be tested to see if it is effective.
Since the active agent in the herbal cure is the cornerstone of so-called artemisinin-based combination therapies, Kevin Marsh of the University of Oxford, who spent decades studying malaria in Kenya, feared that it might cause the malaria parasite to develop resistance.
According to him, the use of artemisinin alone can result in a reduction in the effectiveness of artemisinin for malaria treatment. “We totally depend on artemisinin for malaria in every country of the world, so we are very worried about resistance,” Marsh says—especially in Africa, where 90% of the world’s malaria deaths occur.”
To prevent resistance taking hold, most artemisinin-based malaria treatments include a second antimalarial drug, so that if the parasite develops resistance to artemisinin, the other drug will still kill it.
The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly discourages countries from using artemisinin to treat malaria on its own as a “monotherapy,” because it could hasten the development of drug resistance.