Mata Atlântica - Arquivo/Agência Brasil

With information from Camila Boehm, Agência Brasil

Compound derived from a plant native to the Atlantic Rainforest, Nectranda leucantha, known as cinnamon-dry or cinnamon-white, fights parasites that transmit visceral leishmaniasis and Chagas’ disease. Adolfo Lutz Institute, Federal University of ABC and Oxford University, supported by the Foundation for Research Support of the State of São Paulo (FAPESP), may result in new drugs for the treatment of patients.

Researchers at these institutions have been dedicated to identifying substances that originate in the Atlantic Forest biodiversity that may result in new treatments for the so-called neglected diseases, those caused by infectious agents or parasites that affect mainly poorer populations. In addition to leishmaniasis and Chagas, other examples of this type of disease are dengue fever, malaria and sleeping sickness.

“Neglected diseases affect many countries especially in the tropics, affecting many people in need. Drugs or drugs available for treatment are scarce and have many side effects, so many users of these drugs prefer to discontinue treatment before definitive cure. Therefore, the selection of new compounds is crucial, “said researcher João Henrique Ghilardi Lago of the Federal University of ABC (UFABC).

Ghilardi pointed out that there are several substances in nature that can serve as prototypes for the development of new drugs.

The compounds extracted from dry cinnamon were very potent against Leishmania infantum – the causative agent of visceral leishmaniasis – and Trypanosoma cruzi – which causes Chagas’ disease – according to the researchers, leading to the death of the parasites.

“The next step of our work consists of performing in vivo tests, that is, the animal affected by the disease to confirm the activity already observed in our studies. The important thing, in this case, is that the substance we tested has low toxicity, ie it is selective acting on the parasite, “explained the researcher.

Ghilardi points out that the compound is affordable, which is an advantage when it comes to the development of a remedy. “The preparation of this active substance [combating parasites] is simple and uses inexpensive and readily available raw materials. This point is very important when looking for medicines to treat neglected diseases, they need to be efficient and cheap, “he said.

Also participating in the research were André Gustavo Tempone Cardoso, from the Adolfo Lutz Institute, responsible for the antiparasitic activity tests of the substance, and Edward Anderson, from Oxford University, England, responsible for the planning and synthesis of active prototypes based on products of natural origin.