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Neem tree bark has the potential to treat coronaviruses

The neem tree is a plant with impressive antimicrobial properties. The bark extract been used to treat malaria, internal ulcers, skin and other diseases. Now, a collaborative team of researchers has demonstrated that neem tree bark could possibly be used to treat and reduce the spread of COVID-19.    

Study co-author Dr. Maria Nagel is a research professor in the Department of Neurology and Ophthalmology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

“The goal of this research is to develop a Neem-based medication that can reduce the risk of serious illness when someone is infected with coronaviruses,” said Dr. Nagel.

“We hope that scientists won’t have to continuously develop new therapies every time a new SARS-CoV-2 variant emerges. Just like how we take penicillin for strep throat, we envision taking the Neem-based drug for COVID, allowing us to resume our normal lives without fear of hospitalization and death.”

Neem tree bark extract was tested on animal models in laboratories in India, where it seemed to be effective against COVID. Computer modeling suggests that the neem extract binds to COVID, making it unable to enter into human or animal cells. 

In the lab at CU, neem bark extract was tested on human lungs as a preventative measure against COVID. The extract not only protected against the virus, but also  prevented the virus from reproducing and spreading.  

“The next step in our research is to identify the specific components in neem bark extract that are antiviral. Because these components bind to various regions of SARS-CoV-2, we believe that it will be effective on emerging variants with spike mutations,” said Dr. Nagel. “We will then determine the formulation of dosage for an antiviral drug to treat coronavirus infections.”

The researchers hope that this is the first step toward developing important antivirals in the fight against coronavirus. 

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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