Ancient Herbal Medicine May Offer Relief for Veterans With Gulf War Disease – Arnold School of Public Health


July 27, 2021 | Erin Bluvas, [email protected]

Researchers at the University of South Carolina’s Laboratory for Environmental Health and Disease have completed a promising study for the treatment of Gulf War disease (GWI). Published in Brain Sciences, the results suggest that andrographolide, a popular herbal medicine in Southeast Asia, may be able to restore gut microbiomes and viromes that have been altered by chronic, multiple symptom diseases like the GWI.

The study is one of several lab-led environmental disease-focused research projects, which is led by Associate Professor Saurabh Chatterjee and investigates how environmental toxins contribute to liver disease, metabolic syndrome and obesity. In addition to understanding how the causes and pathways by which these diseases and symptoms arise, the Chatterjee team is also working to identify possible treatments (p. GW) veterans, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and its ectopic manifestations.

“Andrographolide, which is widely used in India and China, has been in use for ages and has many beneficial effects on liver and gastrointestinal disease,” explains
Punnag Saha, second-year doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and principal investigator of the study. “Scientists have conducted significant research into its beneficial properties on various disease models, including the antiviral properties it possesses; However, the effectiveness of andrographolide on the various conditions associated with chronic multiple symptom diseases has never been studied.

The documented benefits of andrographolide prompted scientists at the Environmental Health & Disease Laboratory to initiate the present investigation to determine if it could restore the altered gut microbiome / virome and alleviate other symptoms associated with GWI and similar conditions. . With the supervision and financial support of Chatterjee, Saha collaborated with other members of the team. For example, Dipro Bose, another doctoral student in environmental health sciences with expertise in studies of chronic multi-symptom diseases associated with GW, played a key role in conducting the experiments and analyzing the data.

In their lab studies, the researchers found that Andrographolide was successful in restoring bacterioma and viromes while increasing beneficial bacteria and decreasing harmful bacteria. The treatment also decreased intestinal inflammation and neuroinflammation.

In addition to neurological symptoms (eg, chronic headaches, cognitive difficulties), Gulf War veterans often experience debilitating fatigue, general pain, breathing problems, sleeping problems, problems gastrointestinal and other unexplained medical abnormalities. Despite its 30-year-old origins in the Persian Gulf War, the disease continues to affect 25-32% of the 700,000 American veterans who served between 1990 and 1991.

Twenty years of scientific research have identified chemical exposures and drugs taken during deployment as the likely causes of GWI, but none have comprehensively understood how it affects the body (most have focused only on neurological effects) or how to treat it. Chatterjee’s work found a direct link between neurological effects and previously little studied gastrointestinal symptoms. In a 2017 PLOS ONE publication, his team revealed that GWI-modified microbiomes produce endotoxins that pass through the thinned wall of the intestine (i.e., the leaky gut) and enter the circulation. blood where they circulate throughout the body, including the brain.

Within three years of this discovery, Chatterjee had received nearly $ 3.5 million from the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to continue to advance the scientific community’s understanding of GWI and identify possible treatments. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team also received special funding from the office of the vice president of research at the UofSC. Preliminary results from this study suggest that individuals with higher levels of pesticide exposure, including those with GWI, may be more susceptible to the disease.

New treatments for GWI, including the results of those preclinical studies identified here with andrographolide, a broad-spectrum antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory compound, could not only alleviate the chronic symptoms typically associated with the disease, but could mitigate complications and vulnerability to co-infections, such as COVID-19. The authors recommend that clinical trials with GWI veterans be conducted to better determine the effectiveness of this treatment.

“The quest to identify new pathways in pathophysiology and target them with compounds derived from natural or botanical products remains a top priority for our research,” said Chatterjee. “Punnag and Dipro exemplify my lab’s continued quest to excel in fulfilling the mission of our department and the Arnold School of Public Health. The nationwide lab collaborators and Dr. Lim’s lab at Arizona State University are key to these discoveries.

This study was supported by DoD-IIRFA grant W81XWH1810374, VA Merit Award I01CX001923-01, NIH grant 2P20GM103641 to Saurabh Chatterjee, and NIH grant R00DK107923 to Efrem S. Lim. This work was supported in part by an I01CX001923-01 Merit Review Award from the Clinical Sciences Research and Development Service of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (US).


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