By Sarwat Ghulam Rasool
Researchers belonging to the University of Karachi (KU) Hussein Ebrahim Jamal (HEJ) Research Institute of Chemistry have developed a herbal ointment for the treatment of a common skin disease, leishmaniasis.
HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry Director Prof Dr M Iqbal Choudhary described the study on leishmaniasis as the first of its kind in the region. This research was conducted in collaboration with Jinnah Post Graduate Medical College Dermatology Department Head Dr Azam Samdani and Dermatologist and Larkana Leprosy Unit In-charge Dr Farooq Soomro.
Leishmaniasis is an infectious skin disease that looks like a wound and is caused by the parasite, leishmania. The disease is transmitted through the bite of sand files usually active in the evening and night. These flies breed in dense vegetation and caves or burrows of small rodents. The infection due to the parasite shows on the skin and the disease usually shows on the hands, feet and face, said Research Officer Samreen Khan.
Cutaneous (skin) leishmaniasis is most common in Pakistan and is seen in the people of Balochistan, upper Sindh and northern mountainous areas, mostly in the winter. This disease is caused by a different species of leishmania, including leishmania major and leishmania tropica. In 2001, the biggest outbreak of this disease was seen in districts of Larkana, Sukkur and Dadu.
The treatment of the disease involves the drug pentavelant antimonials but as it has severe side effects as well as the fact that the parasite is becoming resistant to the drug is limiting its usefulness.
“Administering the medicine via an injection is painful and the drug is expensive too besides it has side effects, whereas a herbal ointment extracted from garlic bulbs and different plant species has little to no side effects and can be easily applied to the patients skin,” revealed Samreen.
She maintained that five years of research have shown that this is the cheapest treatment, which all patients can afford.
During the primary study, when the herbal ointment was applied to 200 patients suffering from skin leishmaniasis, 150 patients responded positively. This disease can happen to people of all ages but it is usually common in the elderly.
“There is little known about visceral leishmaniasis, a dangerous form of the disease and more research is required. This type of leishmaniasis affects the internal organs of the body including the spleen, liver and bone marrow. Visceral leishmaniasis is the second most prevalent type of leishmaniasis in Pakistan after cutaneous leishmaniasis,” she further said. This disease is more common in rural areas while the parasites may also be spread through blood transfusions and sharing contaminated needles.
People who have cutaneous leishmaniasis have one or more sores on their skin. These sores can change their size and can become larger over time, while some of the sores are covered by a scab. These sores may be painful or painless. In some cases glands also form near the sores.
Source: Daily Times