Malaria and Common Boxwood

Some of the most valuable antimalarial compounds, including quinine and artemisinin, originated from plants. While these drugs have served important roles over many years for the treatment of malaria, drug resistance has become a widespread problem.

Therefore, a need exists to identify new compounds that have efficacy against drug-resistant malaria strains.
So, researchers took to the field to search for plants that potentially could replace quinine or artemisinin. What they found was a bit of a surprise because common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), a shrub usually planted as a hedge in large parts of the world, showed considerable activity against both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant malaria strains[1]. The specific active ingredient was a lupane triterpene.

In their conclusion, the researchers express their surprise that a potential medicine for malaria can be identified from a plant species in the United States, because tropical and semitropical botanical resources from around the world are much more heavily explored.

Perhaps the outcome shouldn't be a great surprise because it was already known that lupane triterpenes, the anti-malarial active ingredient in common boxwood, only has to undergo some simple modifications before it produces highly effective agents against influenza A and herpes simplex type 1 viruses[2].

[1] Cai et al: Identification of Compounds with Efficacy against Malaria Parasites from Common North American Plants in Journal of Natural Products – 2016
[2] Baltina et al: Lupane triterpenes and derivatives with antiviral activity in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters – 2003

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