Haringhata, June 20: A glimmer of hope for a remedy of Coronavirus disease has emerged up since a Bengali scientist from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research-Kolkata (IISER-K) has proved that the Neem (Azadirachta Indica) bark extract (NBE) can prevent the murine coronavirus Mouse Hepatitis virus (MHV) infection in mice.
Jayasri Das Sarma, 54, a Professor with Department of Biological Sciences, who with support of a team of students made this startling discovery, claimed that since NBE effectively can reduce the severity of murine coronavirus (m-CoV), it might also, be effective to contain Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS–CoV-2) as they both the viruses belong to Beta Coronavirus group.
Speaking to NfN, Professor Das Sarma, who has been working on Neural Cell Biology, Neuroscience since long said, “We have evolved an experimental animal model on the mouse using Beta Coronavirus which is quite similar to SARS-Coronavirus2. It infects the liver and the central nervous system (CNS). The disease kinetics of m-CoV is similar to SARS-CoV-2. But there are multiple symptoms caused by m-CoV which are quite similar to various neurological diseases that closely resemble the optic nerve inflammation and myelin loss in human neurological disease Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
“This similarity made us quite hopeful about NBE’s ability to contain SARS-CoV-2”, she stated.
Das Sarma and her team have extended their study to see whether NBE can also restrict SARS-CoV-2 and save human life. Professor Das Sarma said, “One of our collaborators, a co-scientist Ujjwal Neogi has begun testing samples of Covid19 with NBE at the Karolinska Institute, in Sweden. We could not take up the study here at IISER-K as the required Biosafety level-3 is not available”.
“At the same time another collaborator Debnath Pal at IISc Bangalore has been doing molecular modeling of SARS-Coronavirus2 spike protein with NBE to find out the active binding compounds”, she added.
The research done by Das Sarma and her students on mice revealed that the transmission and pathogenesis of Murine Beta-Coronavirus MHV can be contained by NBE, which is known for more than 100 medicinal properties has the ability to increase the immunity with enormous anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory properties for a longer time.
“In the current study, we have shown that NBE has also anti-viral potential, which is the need of the hour to combat with SARS-Coronavirus-2. This made us hopeful for a remedy of COVID-19”, Professor Das Sarma said.
But how much this mouse Model can be effective on the human body?
Professor Das Sarma of IISER-Kolkata said, “We are not jumping to any conclusion right now. However, there is a strong indication of success”.
“Since the SARS-CoV-2 is also a Beta Coronavirus like MHV and their spike protein shares 37% sequence similarity, we are hopeful that NBE can interact with the deadly SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to reduce its infection-initiation, viral antigen spread, viral replication, and consecutive pathogenesis and help us to contain the severity of COVID-19″, she added with confidence.
This study has been accepted in the international peer-reviewed journal “Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience” on April 14, 2020. The work has also been selected for the highlights in the “American Society for Virology (ASV 2020)’ conference proceedings. The IISER-K authorities have sent it to the Ministry of Human Resource Development appraising about the initial success of the research work terming it as ‘very promising one’.
Das Sarma, a Ph.D. awardee in Immunology and Biochemistry from Indian Statistical Institute, hails from New Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor with the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.
Professor Jayasri Das Sarma and her team have extensively used the murine Beta-Coronavirus MHV as her test system. The study shows that NBE has been successfully able to contain the Coronavirus replication, cell-to-cell spread and acute hepatitis (inflammation in the liver), meningitis (inflammation in meninges), encephalitis (inflammation in the brain), myelitis (inflammation in the spinal cord), and chronic progressive demyelination (loss of myelin sheath and axonal loss).
IISER-K Director Professor Sourav Pal said, “The whole world is looking for a remedy of COVID 19. In that direction,
the research of Professor Das Sarma is a ray of hope. I am very happy that her work on mice has become successful; I am eagerly waiting for the outcome of the experiment on the human SARS-CoV-2. It is a great initiative and I am hopeful about the ultimate success”. “I have written to the Ministry of HRD about the work as I have found it very promising one”, Professor Pal added further.
Speaking to NfN, Professor Das Sarma, “We used NBE mixing it with the virus to experiment with its ability to contain the stage of infections. It was tested for effects of murine coronavirus infection in mice and we found that NBE effectively binds the virus-cell attachment spike protein, making us quite hopeful to get a similar result on the newly emergent SARS-CoV-2”, Professor Das Sarma added.
However, she does not own the idea to use NBE in the experiment. “It was my grandfather Shree Narayan Krishna Sengupta, Vedanta Bachaspati first advised me to try the NBE considering its medicinal efficacy”, she said.
For the past few years Das Sarma and the team comprising of integrated Ph.D. student Lucky Sarkar, integrated BS-MS student Ravi Kiran Putchala and international Ph.D. student Abass Alao Safiriyu have been working on antiviral properties of NBE against murine Beta-Coronavirus infection and immuno-pathogenesis.
“Our objective was to determine whether the NBE can control the initiation of infection as well as whether it can prevent the virus attachment to the cell. The study shows that the application of NBE to MHV-infected neural Neuro-2A cells controlled the infection. The NBE might bind to the Spike protein, prevents the viral spread throughout the central nervous system. It also contained the development of proteins and cytokine release.” Professor Das Sarma said.