Curcumin gets cytomegalovirus
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) belongs to the family of herpes viruses and just like its siblings it can lie dormant in the body (usually in the salivary glands) then reactivate to cause a glandular fever like illness, fatigue and gastric problems. Between 50 and 80 per cent of adults have been infected with CMV by the time they are 40 years old and most would have had mild symptoms and may not even have known they had contracted the virus. CMV is a virus that is implicated in a range of illnesses which include ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, eye conditions such as uveitis, cognitive decline and even brain tumours such as glioblastomas. CMV presents a risk to the unborn child, transplant recipients and HIV patients have a worse prognosis if they are coinfected with CMV. One of the most interesting areas of current research is the effect of CMV on the immune system. The immune system ages along with the other systems of the body, through a process known as immune senescence and CMV is implicated in accelerating the process. Researchers are trying to find out how a virus that causes a relatively mild illness in healthy people can go on and cause such damage to an ageing immune system. As the population is ageing and people are living longer, the number of healthy years those people will experience is not in proportion. Knowing how to stop the CMV effect could be important for lengthening the number of ‘healthy’ years that an older population can have.
Curcumin, an extract of the spice more commonly known as turmeric has become famous for its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, bactericidal, antidepressant and anticancer properties. In July alone this year, over 40 research papers on curcumin were published in the peer reviewed medical literature.
One particular research group has focused its studies on the effects of curcumin extract on Cytomegalovirus. In an initial study, the group showed that an extract of curcumin could inhibit the CMV virus in vitro. The second study published in May this year showed that the curcumin inhibited the virus in vivo. The latest study has gone further in trying to elucidate the mechanism by which curcumin inhibits CMV. The team used an infected cell line and measured the levels of two relevant cytokines IL6 and TNF alpha, cell cycles, gene expression and CMV antigens. Results showed that the curcumin reduced levels of the antigens and the secretions of IL6 and TNF alpha and cell proliferation was reduced to normal. The team concludes that curcumin may change the microenvironment of the host cells and inhibit viral gene expression.
Curcumin is certainly one of the important remedies to keep an eye on in the coming years. It may have an important role to play in coping with the increasingly ageing population.
Lv et al. Mechanism of curcumin resistance to human cytomegalovirus in HELF cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. Aug 2014.