Study sheds light on turmeric’s antiviral properties

Curcumin, a natural compound found in the spice turmeric, could help eliminate certain viruses.

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Turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It is commonly used in Asian food. It has a warm, bitter taste.

Turmeric contains the chemical curcumin, a natural compound that could help eliminate certain viruses, suggests a new study. This compound can prevent Transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) – an alpha-group coronavirus that infects pigs – from infecting cells. At higher doses, the compound was also found to kill virus particles.

TGEV is highly infectious and is invariably fatal in piglets younger than two weeks, thus posing a significant threat to the global swine industry. There are currently no approved treatments for alpha-coronaviruses, and although there is a vaccine for TGEV, it is not effective in preventing the spread of the virus.

For the study, scientists treated experimental cells with various concentrations of the compound, before attempting to infect them with TGEV. They found that higher concentrations of curcumin reduced the number of virus particles in the cell culture.

Scientists found that curcumin affects TGEV in several ways:

  1. It kills the virus before infecting the cells.
  2. It integrates with the viral envelope to ‘inactivate’ the virus.
  3. Altering the metabolism of cells to prevent viral entry.

Dr. Lilan Xie, the lead author of the study and researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Bioengineering, said“Curcumin has a significant inhibitory effect on TGEV adsorption step and a certain direct inactivation effect, suggesting that curcumin has great potential in the prevention of TGEV infection.”

“Curcumin has been shown to inhibit the replication of some types of virus, including dengue virus, hepatitis B, and Zika virus. The compound has also been found to have several significant biological effects, including antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial activities. Curcumin was chosen for this research due to having low side 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.”

“Further studies will be required to evaluate the inhibitory effect in vivo and explore the potential mechanisms of curcumin against TGEV, which will lay a foundation for the comprehensive understanding of the antiviral mechanisms and application of curcumin.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Yaoming Li et al. Antiviral and virucidal effects of curcumin on transmissible gastroenteritis virus in vitro. DOI: 10.1099/jgv.0.001466