Spicy solution for viral infection

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Curcumin, the main compound in the spice turmeric, prevents replication of mosquito-borne Rift Valley Fever virus (RVFV) in infected cells, report researchers.

"Curcumin is, by its very nature, broad spectrum," commented lead author Aarthi Narayanan (George Mason University, Virginia, USA) in a press statement.

However, "we provide evidence that curcumin may interfere with how the virus manipulates the human cell to stop the cell from responding to the infection," she added.

These results add to those of previous studies demonstrating the various health benefits of curcumin including reduction of tissue fibrosis, anti-obesity and anti-allergy effects, and potential anticancer effects.

Kylene Kehn-Hall, a co-investigator on the study also from George Mason University, commented: "We are very excited about this work, as curcumin not only dramatically inhibits RVFV replication in cell culture but also demonstrates efficacy against RVFV in a mouse model."

As reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the researchers studied the effects of curcumin on cells infected with the MP-12 strain of RVFV as well as on mice infected with the virus.

They found that curcumin inhibits part of the p65/nuclear factor ?ß signaling cascade known as I ?ß kinase, which normally allows the virus to cause cellular stress and DNA damage following infection. This inhibition results in significantly reduced viral replication.

In the mouse model, the team found that curcumin was also active against the fully virulent form of RVFV (ZH501). Specifically, it downregulated viral replication in the livers of the infected mice.

This is particularly important as RVFV is a Bunyavirus. These viruses affect a number of cells throughout the body but do maximum damage to the liver.

The researchers hope that their findings and those of future work may result in curcumin being adopted as a component of the antiviral therapies used to fight this group of viruses.

"I know this works. I know it works because I have seen it happen in real life," Narayanan said. "I eat it every day. I make it a point of adding it to vegetables I cook. Every single day."

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