•The trials will begin with mapping of all the medical plants found in select regions, led by Egerton University.
•The team will develop functional food products and supplements with potential to mitigate Covid-19.
Kenyan researchers are actively seeking possible Covid-19 treatments with medicinal plants.
Meanwhile, the virus mutates.
The team under the Covid-19 drug development and clinical trials Consortium is led by Dr Jennifer Orua from the Kenya Medical Research Institute.
It aims to develop natural health products to mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic.
The whole project is led by Egerton University.
Work will begin by mapping all medicinal plants in select regions.
“We hope by the end of mapping we will have the catalogue of all medicinal plants with potential to treat Covid-19 and any other SARS-like ailments,” Orua said.
Experts will carry out preliminary studies to pick smaller samples and subject them to laboratory studies and screen them for efficacy and toxicity.
The efficacy will be tested against Sars-Cov-2 at the Kemri laboratories in hopes of finding a good resource of medicinal plants for further development.
The team will also develop food products and supplements with potential to mitigate Covid-19.
“The outcome would be functional food products, including edible mushrooms and vegetable-derived supplements. These will be good immune boosters that we hope will be able to counter the Covid infections,” Orua said.
The team is one of a number of consortiums that received grants for research from the National Research Fund.
The others are the Kenya Biomedical and Clinical Research Consortium (Sh43 million), the Public Health Consortium and the Psychosocial Support Consortium that received Sh18 million each.
The Biotechnology Research and Clinical Trials Consortium received Sh43 million.
The Orua-led Covid-19 Drug Development and Clinical Trials Consortium received Sh50 million.
The National Research Fund in May 2022 called for research on strategic issues, including Covid-19.
Other research areas are cancer and the desert locust invasion, since the country was facing those challenges at the time.
Under the Covid-19 research, 365 proposals were received and screened. Then 305 were forwarded for peer review, which further narrowed them to 106 proposals recommended for funding.
The National Research Fund Ag CEO Jemimah Onsare said the 106 proposals were subjected to expert review and advice. The 106 proposals were divided into three categories.
There were 65 proposals under the public health and health systems, 28 under the biotechnology research and clinical trials and 13 proposals under the natural products and drug development.
After completing expert review, the plan was to select five proposals under public health and health systems, 10 proposals under the biotechnology research and clinical trials and seven under the natural products and drug development. All were recommended for funding.
Onsare said there were overlaps among some proposals and the board decided on the consortium approach.
This gave rise to four consortiums bringing together researchers with similar ideas. they merged their ideas and came up with the consortiums.
The PS State department for university education and research at the Education Ministry Simon Nabukwesi noted that the research will be undertaken for periods of one to three years.
“The pandemic has shown us in the strongest way possible that investing in research is not just the right thing to do but the smart thing to do. There’s therefore no tradeoff between investing in research and our economy. Research is an investment in our collective future,” Nabukwesi said.
The Kenya Biomedical and Clinical Research Consortium, which comprises 10 institutions, will develop robust cost-effective surveillance diagnosis management and rehabilitation programmes in Kenya.
The Public Health Consortium will be seeking to understand microbial contaminants of facemasks and the risks associated with continuous use of masks.
The Psychosocial Support Consortium seeks to enhance mental health and psychosocial support among schoolchildren during and after Covid-19. It aims to come up with interventions that will support children to continue growing and developing.
(Edited by V. Graham)