Vaccines seem to be the best way to control viral influenza epidemics. However, the lag time between the identification of a new virus and the delivery of an effective vaccine is about six months. This, in addition to concerns about vaccine safety, contributes to growing refusal to take vaccines. Pharmaceutical agents have limited success because of the ability of viruses to mutate, so there is a search for other treatments for viral diseases as a result.
Chinese Traditional Medicines contain many antiviral agents which have not been well-studied. Plants have developed resistance to virus activity throughout their evolution, so they are potential sources of antiviral drugs. An example is dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), which is a good source of vitamins and minerals. Dandelion can be eaten or made into tea. Dandelion roots are in some coffee substitutes, and it has many medicinal uses without side effects.
The present study was done to see whether dandelion has anti-influenza virus activity in cell culture. Extracts were made of the herb in boiling water for 1 hour, and human influenza viruses were grown in fertilized chicken eggs. Various human cell types were used in culture in preparation for viral infection. Some cells were treated with dandelion extract and some were treated with standard oseltamivir pharmaceutical for comparison. After incubation, the products were tested for the further growth of viruses.
Testing showed that dandelion extracts resulted in a reduction in virus levels in two different kinds of cells used to grow influenza virus. The inhibitory effect was 100% at dandelion extract concentration of 5 mg/ml. The therapeutic level of dandelion extract causes no harm to the infected cells, but interferes with the viral RNA production.
CONCLUSION: Water extracts of dandelion were shown to inhibit the influenza virus infection in cell cultures, and may be a good treatment to protect against such infections.
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