Artemisia Spp. derivatives for COVID-19 treatment : anecdotal use, political hype, treatment potential, challenges, and road map to randomized clinical trials

Kapepula, Paulin M. ; Kabengele, Jimmy K. ; Kingombe, Micheline ; Van Bambeke, Francoise ; Tulkens, Paul M. ; Kishabongo, Antoine Sadiki ; Decloedt, Eric ; Zumla, Adam ; Tiberi, Simon ; Suleman, Fatima ; Tshilolo, Leon ; Muyembe-TamFum, Jean-Jacques ; Zumla, Alimuddin ; Nachega, Jean B. (2020)

CITATION: Kapepula, P. M. et al. 2020. Artemisia Spp. derivatives for COVID-19 treatment : anecdotal use, political hype, treatment potential, challenges, and road map to randomized clinical trials. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, doi:10.4269/ajtmh.20-0820.

The original publication is available at https://www.ajtmh.org

Article

The world is currently facing a novel COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 that, as of July 12, 2020, has caused a reported 12,322,395 cases and 556,335 deaths. To date, only two treatments, remdesivir and dexamethasone, have demonstrated clinical efficacy through randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in seriously ill patients. The search for new or repurposed drugs for treatment of COVID-19 continues. We have witnessed anecdotal use of herbal medicines, including Artemisia spp. extracts, in low-income countries, and exaggerated claims of their efficacies that are not evidence based, with subsequent political controversy. These events highlight the urgent need for further research on herbal compounds to evaluate efficacy through RCTs, and, when efficacious compounds are identified, to establish the active ingredients, develop formulations and dosing, and define pharmacokinetics, toxicology, and safety to enable drug development. Derivatives from the herb Artemisia annua have been used as traditional medicine over centuries for the treatment of fevers, malaria, and respiratory tract infections. We review the bioactive compounds, pharmacological and immunological effects, and traditional uses for Artemisia spp. derivatives, and discuss the challenges and controversies surrounding current efforts and the scientific road map to advance them to prevent or treat COVID-19.

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