Artemisia annua (also known as annual mugwort) is a medicinal plant that has been used in Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. It is also used by the pharmaceutical industry to treat malaria. A recent study reveals that one of its components could prove effective in curing certain cancers, as well as Covid-19.

Researchers at the University of Texas (San Antonio) have identified that this plant contains a component with cytotoxic properties (toxicity for cells) which is effective against brain cancer, but also against Covid-19: arteannuine B.

As part of their research, scientists conducted tests with Artemisia leaf extracts to determine their toxicity on glioblastoma cells (a malignant form of brain tumour). By purifying the plant's substances, they isolated each of its components and tested their possible effect on cancer. In this way, they were able to identify that arteannuine B demonstrated consistent cytotoxic activity against glioblastoma cells. Specifically, it is a component of this plant capable of inhibiting certain enzymes (cysteine proteases) which break down proteins overexpressed in cancer cells.

Secondly, the researchers were also able to observe that arteannuine B also has effects against Covid-19. In fact, this molecule is capable of blocking the activity of enzymes which play a direct role in inflammation and cell death (main protease and caspase-8).

Further research will now be needed to determine the most suitable modes of administration, as well as the precise uses to which this molecule can be put. At present, scientists are studying how to encapsulate this compound in various concentrations to specifically target areas in need of treatment.

Source:  Journal of Natural Products