Certainly, identifying, developing and making use of new therapies to prevent and combat the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease is a top priority for researchers and institutions around the world, and to this end, great efforts are being made in which different options are explored. and approaches.
In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, and virtually any disease or condition, natural products of plant origin represent an attractive option in the search for a cure.
A harmful substance
But such is the plant diversity that scientists do not know the chemical composition or therapeutic potential – or toxic – of most of these species, and it is known that there are varieties that are distinguished by their toxicity, so it must be borne in mind that they do not everything that has a natural origin is necessarily safe.
A study published on a preprint server, meaning that it has not been reviewed by other scientists, concluded that a chemical found in oleander (Nerium oleander), a highly toxic plant, can be used as a treatment for COVID-19.
Effects on heart tissue
In the study, the researchers observed in Vero cells how oleandrin, a chemical that causes the harmful effects of the plant, slowed the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 disease, but no data is available from animals or humans for this indication.
Scientists qualify oleandrin as a cardiac glycoside, a class of organic compounds that are distinguished by exhibiting powerful effects on heart tissue, often with fatal consequences.
Of particular concern is the possibility that some – or many – people may misinterpret the study results and try to self-medicate with this highly poisonous plant.
According to a report published in 2010, oleandrin directly interferes with the heart’s sodium-potassium pump, which can lead to arrhythmias. Its ingestion also causes gastrointestinal effects, and both appear about 4 hours after consumption. The report’s authors calculated that 4 grams of oleandrin leaves would be fatal.
Regarding the possibility of consuming this plant as a way to combat coronavirus disease, Dr. David Juurlink, affiliated with the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, commented:
“No one should take oleandrin to prevent COVID. Anyone gullible and foolish enough to take it despite this advice should put their affairs in order beforehand. “
Prophylactic and Therapeutic Inhibition of In Vitro SARS-CoV-2 Replication by Oleandrin. BioRxiv, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.15.203489
Oleandrin is a deadly plant poison, not a COVID-19 cure. The Conversation, 2020. https://bit.ly/31c1w8U