Researchers from the Wuhan University of Engineering in China have found that curcumin, a natural compound found in turmeric, has antiviral effects and may be able to eliminate certain viruses.
In their study, the researchers found that curcumin was able to prevent the transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) from infecting cells, and even kill virus particles in high doses. An alpha-group coronavirus known to infect pigs, other alpha coronaviruses include HCoV-OC43, known to cause the common cold.
COVID-19 is considered a beta coronavirus due to its more variable clinical severity.
Infection by TGEV is known to cause a disease called transmissible gastroenteritis in piglets. Highly infectious, common characteristics of the disease include diarrhea, severe dehydration, and death. Especially deadly among piglets under two weeks old, the disease poses a significant threat to the global pork industry.
For the research, the researchers treated clusters of cells invitro with different curcumin concentrations before then infecting them with TGEV. They found that cell cultures exposed to higher levels of curcumin had lower levels of viral particles.
The researchers thus suggest that curcumin affects TGEV in numerous ways: by killing the virus before it infects the cell, by integrating with the viral envelope to deactivate the virus, and by modulating cells' metabolism to prevent the virus from entering them.
The researchers now hope to extend their research into animal models to see whether curcumin has the same antiviral effects.
"There are great difficulties in the prevention and control of viral diseases, especially when there are no effective vaccines. Traditional Chinese medicine and its active ingredients are ideal screening libraries for antiviral drugs because of their advantages, such as convenient acquisition and low side effects", says Dr. Lilan Xie, the author of the study.