Viral protection from an novel source

By | Health & Wellness
Carvacrol, found in the leaves of oregano, has been shown to successfully help eliminate noroviruses. Credit image@ tibbygirl, flickr.com

Oregano oil, found in the leaves of the plant, has shown to have some quite impressive results on a common winter condition, reports a new article published on the online edition of The Society for Applied Microbiology’s scientific journal: Journal of Applied Microbiology.

Dr. Kelly Bright, of the University of Arizona, led the research team, looking at the effects of oregano oil on the norovirus, more commonly known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’.

Noroviruses are characterised by having a single stranded section of RNA (rather than the double stranded DNA one would find in humans, for example). The reason behind its more common name is due to the fact that people tend to stay indoors and closer to one another more often during the winter months, thereby increasing the likelihood of contact.

It also spreads extremely rapidly, as it can be caught through person-to-person contact, on surfaces or inhaled. However, it is self-limiting, meaning healthy individuals make a full recovery in a matter of days, often without the assistance of medication.

Moreover, using chlorine-based disinfectants can further diminish the effects, although the corrosive nature of such products and fumes leaves something to be desired.

As a result, the Arizona based team looked into the efficacy of Carvacrol, the oil derived from the oregano plant, as a novel way of dealing with the pathogen.

The researchers tested the compound on the murine, or mouse, form of the virus, as the human form is extremely complicated to examine in laboratory conditions, notably as a result of the fact that scientists are still trying to find ways of cultivating it outside the human body.

The murine form is thought to be the closest in terms of antimicrobial and disinfectant resistance.

Carvacrol was shown to act directly on the capsid, the tough shell of surrounding proteins that encloses its genetic material. This is particularly interesting what is removed from this virus is the lipid outer layer meaning that traditional alcohols and detergents, generally used to clean, have little, if any, effect on this type of agent.

The fact that the oregano oil is capable of acting on another aspect of the morphology means a new way of dealing with the pathogen itself.

By breaking apart the protein capsid, other antimicrobials could enter and begin acting on the internal structures, essentially deactivating it from the inside.

As a result, should the product enter the market in the future, it will most likely be in conjuncture with other antimicrobials to ensure an effective disinfectant, capable of cleaning away the norovirus, even if it acts a little slower than powerful bleaches.

The team are also hopeful of creating a natural food and surface sanitiser, which would be used as a long-term solution.

Even more promising is that fact that it is unlikely to develop a resistance to Carvacrol, as it acts on the external protein capsid, rather than internal structures. In addition, the use of Carvacrol is safe and non-toxic, making it an ideal candidate to replace the more corrosive detergents currently on the market.

The “safe” nature of the oregano-based compound makes it particularly useful in places such as hospitals and schools, where children and the elderly, are more susceptible.

Nancy Mendoza, writing about the findings on the website Eureka Alert!, was keen to mention that  pizza alone, although often containing oregano, would do little to provide complete protection, as delicious as it may sound.

What are your health tips to staying healthy this winter?

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