Extracts of a night-flowering jasmine — Paarijat or Nycanthes Arbortrisis — are being given to select malaria patients at KEM Hospital along with anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and primaquine.
The combination is being given as part of research by the hospital’s clinical pharmacology department and Kasturba Health Society’s Medical Research Centre in Juhu.
The researchers aim to assess whether Paarijat can reduce the severity of vivax malaria and accelerate recovery.
“The research is important considering we need to find new medicines for malaria in view of the continually growing resistance to drugs,” said Dr Urmila Thatte, who heads the pharmacology department. She, however, cautioned that it was too early to comment on the combination treatment’s effectiveness.
Paarijat leaves are believed to have anti-malarial properties. An Ayurveda practitioner first used the Paarijat paste for malaria treatment in the late 19th century. “A study conducted with 120 patients at Podar Ayurved Hospital five years ago showed Paarijat helps reduce malaria symptoms within 24 hours,” said Dr Ashok Vaidya, research director at Kasturba Health Society.
“We are trying to see whether it can reduce the severity of the disease when given with chloroquine. Chloroquine kills the parasite quickly but the symptoms remain for a few days,” he added.
The researchers plan to try this combination treatment on 20 patients with uncomplicated vivax malaria. Another 20 patients will be given conventional anti-malaria treatment so results can be compared. In all, 19 patients have already been put through the trial.
The doctors are conducting blood tests before and after starting the combination to measure the level of cytokine (immune cells that lead to inflammation).
When a patient gets malaria, the level of cytokines shoot up and damage the body. The treatment could bring down the levels, according to the hypothesis. Dr Sanjay Oak, director of major BMC Hospitals, was not aware about Paarijat but said that the “discovery of any natural therapy to control malaria is welcome”.