Antiviral and anti-inflammatory activity in Kawakawa leaf extract
Traditional use of plants for medicinal purposes is a feature of indigenous human societies. The biological principles that underpin many such traditional remedies has been established using various scientific methodologies.
In New Zealand, Kawakawa (Macropiper excelsium) has been used in Rongoa Māori (traditional Māori medicine) to alleviate a variety of common ailments including fever however there is no contemporary scientific evidence for how the medical effects of Kawakawa might be mediated. This project will address this knowledge gap by posing two hypothetical mechanisms by which Kawakawa, or substances present in Kawakawa might exert a biological and thus medicinal effect. The first of these is the ability to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a common front-line immune response to infectious agents or toxic chemicals in the body. Inflammation is caused by the production of various inflammatory mediators by cells in the blood and peripheral tissues. The production of inflammatory mediators from isolated blood cells can be used as a laboratory method (assay) for inflammation and thus serves as a method for testing natural compounds with potential anti-inflammatory activity. The second hypothesis is that Kawakawa may have a direct antiviral activity. This may be a more selective property depending on which type of virus infection is involved. Replication of viruses can be measured in the laboratory after infection of isolated cell cultures with pure virus isolates. Using rotavirus, a common agent of gastroenteritis, as a representative human virus, the project will test the hypothesis that kawakawa can inhibit virus replication in vitro.
The intern is Chris Ryan, Year 12, Howick College in conjunction with Dr. John Taylor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland.