Objective The global impact of artemisinin-based combination therapies on malaria-associated mortality and their origins in ancient Chinese medicine has heightened interest in the natural discovery of future antimalarials.
Methods A double-blind study to identify potential ingredients with antimalarial activity from traditional remedies with reported antipyretic properties. Recipes of clear broths, passed down by tradition in families of diverse ethnic origin, were sourced by school children. Broths were then tested for their ability to arrest malaria parasite asexual growth or sexual stage development in vitro. Clear broth extract was incubated with in vitro cultures of Plasmodium falciparum asexual or mature sexual stage cultures and assayed for parasite viability after 72 hours.
Results Of the 56 broths tested, 5 were found to give >50% in vitro growth inhibition against P. falciparum asexual blood stages, with 2 having comparable inhibition to that seen with dihydroartemisinin, a leading antimalarial. Four other broths were found to have >50% transmission blocking activity, preventing male parasite sexual stage development. After unblinding, two active broths were found to be from siblings from different classes, who had brought in the same vegetarian soup, demonstrating assay robustness.
Conclusions This screening approach succeeded in finding broths with activity against malaria parasite in vitro growth, arising from complex vegetable and/or meat-based broths. This represented a successful child education exercise, in teaching about the interface between natural remedies, traditional medicine and evidence-based drug discovery.
- drug discovery
- high throughput screening
- traditional medicine
- natural compounds
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Contributors MJD, KW, US and JB designed all experiments. The Children of Eden Primary School together with MJD, KW and US performed experiments (from filtering to testing). JB wrote the manuscript, and all authors were involved in revising it critically for important intellectual content and approving the final version. All authors agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved as they all gave editorial feedback. All authors consumed one of the products.
Funding This work while supported by general lab resources was greatly benefited by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, grant OPP1043501 (JB) to find transmission blocking antimalarials. JB is supported by Wellcome via an Investigator Award (100993/Z/13/Z). SDM is supported by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre based at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust and University College London.
Disclaimer The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Ethics approval All human blood samples (research grade red blood cells) were sourced ethically from the NHS Blood Transfusion Service, and their research use was in accord with the terms of the informed consents under an IRB/EC approved protocol.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Primary screening data, with detailed inhibitory concentrations found, are included here as online supplementary data files 1 and 2.
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