Madagascar, the only country to declare traditional medicine treatment for coronavirus announced its first death on Sunday, nearly two months after the pandemic was first detected in the country.
The 57-year-old, car park attendant who died on Saturday, had underlying diabetes and high blood pressure before he was infected, an official from the anti – coronavirus task team said.
“It is with great sadness that we have to share with all our compatriots, that there is an individual, aged 57, who died from Covid-19,” Professor Hanta Vololontiana said on public television.
The dead was a car park attendant at a hospital in the eastern city of Toamasina.
The Indian Ocean Island which has reported 304 cases has hit the headlines over a home – grown traditional medicine treatment for coronavirus.
Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina touted the traditional medicine containing an Artemisia extract and other herbs as a “miracle cure” for the coronavirus.
Since then, media in Africa have plugged the drink’s potential, and several African countries have placed orders for the traditional medicine, sold under the name COVID Organics.
The traditional medicine is derived from Artemisia – a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment – and other indigenous herbs.
The World Health Organization, however, warns on its website that there is “no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be prevented or treated with products made from Artemisia – based plant material.”
Last week, scientists at Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam joined a group of researchers from Germany and Denmark collaborating with the US company ArtemiLife to explore whether the Artemisia plant can be used against the novel coronavirus.
“It is the first study in which scientists are investigating the function of these plant substances in connection with COVID-19,” the head of the study, Peter Seeberger, said.
The cell study will use test extracts from the Artemisia annua plant, also known as sweet wormwood, as well as derivatives isolated from the plant such as Artemisinin.
An Artemisia compound has long been used as a treatment for malaria.
While it’s possible new treatments might come from traditional medicines, says Michel Yao from the WHO Regional Office for Africa, people should refrain from using untested remedies for coronavirus.
Artemisia annua is not the first malaria treatment to gain attention in the search for treatment against COVID-19. The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine has also been hyped in recent months despite little data supporting its effectiveness against coronavirus infection.
Artemisia has also been trialed “quite successfully” against diseases other than malaria, says Seeberger. Studies found the Artemisia extract was effective in inhibiting the first SARS coronavirus (SARS – CoV) that surfaced in Asia in 2002, causing a respiratory illness.
The scientists expect results by the end of May at the latest. If Artemisia is found to be effective in these trials, further tests including clinical studies on humans, would still need to take place.