Including pomegranate in your diet could be a delicious way of preventing and fighting Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, new research suggests1. Researchers at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore have found three compounds in pomegranate which suppress the activity of the virus.
Research in the area of host-virus interactions have helped develop a number of anti-HCV agents against the blood-borne, single stranded RNA virus. However, successful treatment of Hepatitis C is still limited mostly due to heterogeneity of its genome and side effects of prevalent therapies.
The IISc researchers have now explored highly potent anti-HCV small molecule inhibitors from pomegranate fruit. They found that three compounds – punicalin, punicalagin and ellagic acid – suppress the action of a crucial HCV enzyme NS3 protease. Blockage of NS3 protease activity directly suppresses processing of viral polyprotein, an essential event in the life cycle of the virus. Their research also suggests that these compounds could inhibit virus entry and replication in the host.
“When we fed these inhibitors to experimental mice, the compounds were readily absorbed into the blood. They reached different tissues without any toxic effects,” says lead researcher Saumitra Das. These compounds also undergo hydrolysis and produce different metabolites which might be involved in diverse signaling pathways, providing health benefits.
Consumption of diet enriched with these phytochemicals or pomegranate may reduce the risk of HCV infection, the authors suggest. They say future generation drugs for prevention and control of HCV induced complications could be evolved from these compounds.
1. Reddy, B. U. et al. Small molecule inhibitors of HCV replication from pomegranate. Sci. Rep. 4, 5411 (2014) doi: 10.1038/srep05411