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Phase I of the research into HIV drug complete: Prof John Tabuti takes feedback to Traditional healers

The first phase of the research into the development of an HIV/AIDS drug from medicinal plants has been finalized. Makerere University under the umbrella organization of the Inter-University Council of East Africa embarked on a three year project aimed at producing drugs to alleviate HIV/AIDS in East Africa.

The three year project titled “Value chain analysis and development of plant-derived medicinal products for management of HIV/AIDS in the face of climate change in the Lake Victoria basin” is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and is implemented by the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), through the Lake Victoria Research Initiative (VicRes).

Makerere  Ethnobatanist Prof. John Tabuti who is the lead researcher, was on June 6, 2012, at PROMETRA Uganda  in Mpigi district  in a research dissemination workshop to give a feedback of the information that was collected from  traditional healers from Mpigi, Butambala and Gomba districts.

Traditional healers  arriving at PROMETRA Uganda Traditional healers institute Mpigi


Prof. Tabuti said, for the last one year, they have been determining what material people use for treating HIV/AIDS and collecting these materials “The message really has been that we interacted with 60 healers who gave us a list of 251 different plant species they used for treating HIV/AIDS and related illness but the top most medicinal plants that were reported by the majority will be subjected to laboratory experiments in the next phase” he said

Standing is Prof. John Tabuti addressing traditional healers during the workshop in the forest. Left is Director PROMETRA Uganda Dr. Yahaya Sekagya. In red is Assistant Researcher Antonia Nyamukuru and another PhD student from Makerere University.

He however said, information on associated ailments and plants used to treat 28 diseases that are associated with HIVAIDS has not been summarized due to bulkiness of the information gathered. “The other key message which we gave today is that we have been carrying out experiments on domesticating some of the plants that they use as medicines and we found out that all these plants can be easily propagated, grown or sown on gardens.”

He said the second year will involve verifying whether the materials provided   treat HIV/AIDS and its related ailments, their efficacy, safety and then determine what exactly is in the plants that treat HIV/AIDS to   understand the chemistry and go straight into formulation.

“The primary work for next year is to determine whether the materials we have got from the healers that is, the names of the species and the plants themselves really treat HIV. That would mean that whether the material has the capacity and the potential to heal the virus and also whether they can manage the associated ailment that would be things like bacterial infections, fungal infections, cough, tuberculosis and things like ringworms.”

Traditional healers attending the workshop in one of their class located in the forest

The development of any drug is a long process which involves the identification of the natural materials people use, verifying whether they treat, their efficacy and safety, then determining what in the material treats the disease to understand its chemistry and finally going into formulation.

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