Kenya has unveiled some traditional and herbal medicines likely to treat COVID-19. The front-runner is a herbal product developed by the Kenya Medical Research Institute to treat herpes simplex, a common viral disease that causes sores on the mouth and genitals.

The Ministry of Health says Zedupex was developed by Kenyan scientists from medicinal trees more than five years ago.
“Kemri has commenced exploring the efficacy of its in-house product (Zedupex) and other natural products against Covid-19,” Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said in his response to questioning by MPs.

Zedupex was developed by three scientists at the institute’s Natural Products Research and Drug Development Research Programme. It was patented in 2016 and registered as a herbal product by the PPB the same year. It is available in powder form packed in 250-gramme containers.

The prescription for herpes simplex is a teaspoonful of Zedupex powder in a cup of boiled water. “It is one of the herbal products with antiviral properties we are testing for efficacy. But it is definitely safe and that’s the most important,” Dr Festus Tolo, one of the researchers said.

The trials are being done at Kemri’s city laboratory. The drug, which is a Kemri intellectual property, has not been administered on any coronavirus patient. Tolo said it is too early to speak about the drug’s efficacy against Coronavirus.

Both herbal and traditional medicines of plant origin have, according to Tolo, provided templates for synthetic drugs and will play a role in the search for coronavirus treatment.  “For instance, the oldest malaria treatment, quinine, was developed from a tree extract before it was synthesised,” he said.

Kenya is not the only country exploring the treatment of the disease with herbal products. Chinese scientists are investigating the Japanese knotweed, scientifically known as polygonum cuspidatum.

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