Tamarind can protect against chikungunya, find IIT researchers
The infection occurs mostly in the Indian subcontinent, Asia and Africa, with a major outbreak in 2015 affecting several countries in the Region of the Americas, according to the World Health Organisation.Updated: Nov 14, 2018 08:47 IST
A protein derived from tamarind seed can protect against chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease caused by the CHIKV alphavirus, according to researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee. The study has been accepted in the scientific journal, Virology.
Chikungunya causes fever, headache, and prolonged joint pains that can last for months after the infection has cleared. The infection occurs mostly in the Indian subcontinent, Asia and Africa, with a major outbreak in 2015 affecting several countries in the Region of the Americas, according to the World Health Organisation.
In India, the disease affected over 12,500 people in 2017. To date, no therapy exists for the disease and treatment is usually symptomatic. The researchers first looked at whether the lectin protein isolated from the tamarind seed could bind with N-acetylglucosamine (NAG), a glucose molecule that forms the outer shell of alphaviruses like chikungunya, ross river virus and semliki virus.
“To cause infection, the NAG on the surface of the shell of the chikungunya virus binds with receptors on the host cells. The idea was that if the lectin protein bound with the NAG instead, the virus would not be able to infiltrate the host cell. We found that it could bind,” said Dr Shailly Tomar, assistant professor of biotechnology at IIT Roorkee and one of the authors of the paper.
“We found that the infectivity of the chikungunya virus coated with lectin (compared to normal chikungunya virus) reduced by 64%...This goes on to show that the lectin protein from the tamarind seed, if had as a medicine, is likely to reduce the severity of chikungunya disease,” said Tomar. The next step will be to observe whether the protein is able to protect against the infection in animal trials.
“When we provide the lectin protein as a pill... Once in the blood, the protein should be able to prevent the spread of the virus from one cell to the other. The adverse impact of black carbon aerosols were discovered in the early 2000s. Through our research and simulations we have found that aerosols are increasing at a rate of 2% per annum. This is bound to create an adverse condition and will have increasingly negative effects on not only climate change but also the Indian monsoons as well as public health in the subcontinent.
“Our centre is 10 years old now. We look into research on any type of climate change and climate variability. Our areas of research include not only black carbon aerosols but also changes in the Himalayan glaciers and its effects on water security in the mountain regions. We are also looking into renewable energy, solar and wind energy. The Future Earth program is an international program led by the United Nations that began in 2015.
“While most work till now has been focused on climate-change issues, we deal with finding solutions. Our main objective is to find region specific solution oriented research. Thankfully, India is very serious about its commitment to climate change. While there is a problem of implementation, the right policies and rules are in place. The United States withdrawing from the Paris accord was unfortunate and we hope that doesn’t have a chain reaction.
“I believe most of the anti-climate change talk is driven by the fossil fuel lobby. I think, unfortunately there is a good chance that the ‘tipping point’, that is an irreversible change in climate, will take place. The new system afterwards will be much hotter than now and while a global mean of 3-4 degrees warmer temperature is predicted, areas close to the equator will heat up several degrees more.
“Having said that, a global effort is being made and many powerful countries are serious about their commit. We’re essentially trying to link our science with policy and society. We are constantly reaching out to policy makers to take up measures to mitigate climate-change. We are also organising technical cooperation programs, through which young researchers from 25 South Asian and African countries attend a training and awareness programme on climate change.”