Bilberry and black currant extracts can help -

Measles and herpes: plant extracts act against certain viruses

Blueberries and blackcurrants are particularly healthy foods. They score points with vitamins, minerals and fiber and can have a positive effect on cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, among others. And extracts from these berries may help fight certain viruses, researchers now report.

Bilberry and black currant extracts in cell cultures prevent cells from being infected with measles and herpes viruses. A team of scientists from Würzburg was very surprised by these research results. The new findings were published in the journal BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies.

Immune strengthening or even healing

According to a statement from the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU), certain plant extracts and natural substances have long been considered to strengthen the immune system or even promote the healing of various diseases. These include diseases caused by viruses.

But how to examine such connections? How to identify with the least possible effort suitable drug candidates for further testing?

To this end, researchers today use, among other things, screening methods that make it possible to decide on the effects sought or not on biological cells "in vitro", that is to say outside of an organism. living. Standardized cell cultures are used so that the results are comparable and reproducible.

The tests do not require animal testing

A large number of virus infection systems are available to scientists at the Fraunhofer Center for Regenerative Therapies at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC and the Institute for Virology and Immunobiology at JMU.

Here the cells are infected with different viruses and then it is analyzed whether certain substances inhibit the replication of the virus. According to the information, these tests can be standardized and do not require animal testing. Significant results can be achieved quickly this way.

The collaboration of the two research groups has led to the development of infection models in 3D cell culture that allow infection studies very close to the patient with different viruses.

Analysis of the antiviral effect of plant extracts

Analyzes of the antiviral effect of plant extracts have now been carried out in a research cooperation with the Research & Development Innovation department of Evonik Operations GmbH. The basis was cell lines, which are established for investigations of defined viral infections.

"In a first step, we carried out toxicity analyzes of the plant-based drug candidates to determine whether and at what concentrations the substances are compatible with cell cultures", explains Dr. Maria Steinke, project manager at the Center Fraunhofer translation for regenerative therapies.

Only substances and concentrations identified as compatible with cells were used for subsequent testing for efficacy against viruses.

The study used herpes and measles viruses modified so that infected cells fluoresce green. Substances that inhibit viral infection therefore led to fewer glowing green cells under UV light. In this way, the number of infected cells in cultures could be automated.

High content of anthocyanin pigments

In antiviral experiments, cellular systems were treated with a total of nine candidate drugs and the effect on the infection process was examined.

Data collected by researchers shows that a blend of black currant and blueberry extracts with high anthocyanin content (Healthberry® 865) and the corresponding individual extracts have antiviral properties against measles and herpes viruses in vitro.

"Together with Prof. Bodem's team, we have already carried out such efficacy tests for many companies, but very often the actually hoped-for effects can hardly or not at all be proven. This is why the recognizable antiviral effect substances in this study almost surprised us,” says Dr. Steinke.

The research groups have also managed to identify the active antiviral components in the extracts. It is also an essential step for the development of active principles or ingredients. The data also shows that natural substances can complement conventional antiviral therapies.

Measles virus infection inhibited

“Overall, our study showed very interesting results on the efficacy of plant extracts on viruses in vitro,” says Professor Bodem. “Because some of the substances examined inhibit infection by measles viruses, but not the measles vaccine virus used for vaccination,” explains the expert.

"Thus, vaccination would be possible as a supplement to preventive treatment if it were possible to develop a therapeutic agent based on the constituents of the plant. By identifying the active ingredients in the extracts, we have taken a first step in this direction.

The results on the efficacy of plant ingredients against strains of viruses pathogenic for humans allow us to be convinced that new areas of application for the already approved active ingredients can be identified more quickly than before using in vitro test methods.

In the future, plant extracts and active ingredients alone or in combination with common drugs could open up new options in antiviral therapies. (ad)

Author and source information

Show now

This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg: Plant extracts are effective against viruses (accessed: August 13, 2022), Julius-Maximilians-Universität WürzburgSivarajan, R., Oberwinkler, H., Roll, V. et al. : A definite anthocyanin mixture of bilberry and black currant inhibits measles virus and various herpes viruses; in: BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, (published: 08/07/2022), BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies

Important note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.