News Release

Ancient herbal medicine may offer relief to veterans with Gulf War Illness

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of South Carolina

COLUMBIA, SC – Andrographolide, a popular herbal medicine in Southeast Asia, might restore gut microbiomes and viromes that have been altered by chronic multi-symptom illnesses like Gulf War Illness (GWI) according to a study from the University of South Carolina’s Environmental Health & Disease Laboratory

The study found that andrographolide successfully restored bacteriomes and viromes while increasing beneficial bacteria and decreasing harmful bacteria. The treatment also decreased gut inflammation and neuroinflammation.

“Andrographolide, which is widely used in India and China, has been used for ages and has numerous beneficial effects for liver and gastrointestinal disease,” says Punnag Saha, a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and the lead researcher for the study. “Scientists have conducted significant research about its beneficial properties on various disease models including the antiviral properties it possesses; however, andrographolide’s efficacy on the various ailments associated with chronic multi-symptom illnesses has never been studied.”

Andrographolide’s documented benefits prompted UofSC’s Environmental Health & Disease Laboratory to investigate whether it could restore the altered gut microbiome/virome and alleviate other symptoms associated with GWI and similar conditions.

Saurabh Chatterjee, director of UofSC’s Environmental & Disease Laboratory, identified how GWI-altered microbiomes produce endotoxins that pass through the thinned lining of the gut (i.e., leaky gut) and enter the bloodstream where they are circulated throughout the body, including the brain.

Andrographolide – a broad spectrum antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory compound – could provide relief not only for chronic symptoms typically associated with the disease but may mitigate complications from and vulnerability to co-infections, such as COVID-19.  The authors recommend that clinical trials with GWI veterans be conducted to better determine the efficacy of this course of treatment.

“The quest for identifying novel pathways of pathophysiology and to target them with compounds derived from natural products or botanicals remain a top priority for our research,” Chatterjee says. “Punnag and Dipro exemplify the continuing quest of my lab to excel in achieving the mission of our department and the Arnold School of Public Health. The lab’s collaborators nationwide and Dr. Lim’s laboratory at Arizona State University are keys to these discoveries.”

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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 a Merit Review Award I01CX001923-01 from the United States (U.S.) Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Sciences Research and Development Service.

About the University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina is a globally recognized, high-impact research university committed to a superior student experience and dedicated to innovation in learning, research and community engagement. Founded in 1801, the university offers more than 350 degree programs and is the state’s only top-tier Carnegie Foundation research institution. More than 50,000 students are enrolled at one of 20 locations throughout the state, including the research campus in Columbia. With 56 nationally ranked academic programs including top-ranked programs in international business, the nation’s best honors college and distinguished programs in engineering, law, medicine, public health and the arts, the university is helping to build healthier, more educated communities in South Carolina and around the world.

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