Scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum München demonstrate that root extracts of the medicinal plant Pelargonium sidoides (PS) contain compounds that attack HIV-1 particles and prevent virus replication. A team spearheaded by Dr. Markus Helfer and Prof. Dr. Ruth Brack-Werner from the Institute of Virology and Prof. Dr. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin from the Analytical BioGeoChemistry research unit (BGC) performed a detailed investigation of the effects of PS extracts on HIV-1 infection of cultured cells. They demonstrated that PS extracts protect blood and immune cells from infection by HIV-1, the most widespread type of HIV. PS extracts block attachment of virus particles to host cells and thus effectively prevent the virus from invading cells. Chemical analyses revealed that the antiviral effect of the PS extracts is mediated by polyphenols. Polyphenol mixtures isolated from PS extracts retain high anti-HIV-1 activity but are even less toxic for cells than the crude extract.
Dr. Markus Helfer; Prof. Ruth Brack-Werner (Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München)
Safety of PS-extracts has been established in several clinical trials. In Germany PS extracts are licensed as a herbal medicine and used to reduce symptoms of acute bronchitis. Research group leader Brack-Werner says, “PS-extracts are a very promising lead for the development of the first scientifically validated phytomedicine against HIV-1. PS extracts attack HIV-1 with a mode-of-action that is different from all anti-HIV-1 drugs in clinical use. Therefore a PS-based phytomedicine may be a valuable supplement for established anti-HIV therapies. Furthermore, PS extracts are attractive candidates for increasing anti-HIV-1 therapy options in resource-limited settings, since they are easy to produce and do not require refrigeration. The results of our study and the proven safety of PS extracts encourages their testing in HIV-1 infected individuals as next step.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 35 million people in the world are infected with HIV, the majority with HIV-1. Without treatment, HIV destroys the immune system and causes the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is a life-threatening disease. HIV/AIDS is one of the 10 leading causes of death worldwide.
The goal of research at the Helmholtz Zentrum München is to develop new approaches to diagnosing, treating and preventing common diseases. In the interest of translational research, the acquired knowledge is to be applied to humans as quickly as possible in order to provide concrete benefits for society.
pelargonium sidoides (Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München)
Helfer, M. et al. (2014), The root extract of the medicinal plant Pelargonium sidoides is a potent HIV-1 attachment inhibitor. Plos One, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087487
As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,200 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 34,000 staff members.
The Institute of Virology (VIRO) investigates viruses that chronically infect humans and can cause life-threatening diseases. The research activities of the institute focus mainly on the HI virus which causes AIDS, on endogenous retroviruses, which are integrated into our germline, and hepatitis B and C viruses, which cause liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Molecular studies identify new diagnostic and therapeutic concepts to prevent and treat these viral diseases or to prevent the formation of virus-induced tumors.
The independent Analytical BioGeoChemistry Research Unit (BGC) investigates molecular interactions among substances in biogeosystems. Together with separation procedures and mathematical methods, high-resolution methods of organic structural characterization allow a precise space and time-resolved analysis. The goal is to achieve a better understanding of molecular processes in ecosystems and to improve the identification of biomarkers in organisms. The BGC is a part of the Department of Environmental Sciences.
Prof. Ruth Brack-Werner, Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Institute of Virology, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg – Phone: +49 89 3187-2923 – E-Mail