08 Nov 2023
Could willow bark provide our next life-saving antiviral medicine?
by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/Shutterstock.com Scientists have found that specially processed samples of willow bark extract have an antiviral effect which isn’t seen in already known medical compounds from willow bark, such as salicylic acid, the precursor to modern aspirin. The extract worked against two common types of virus with very different structures, enteroviruses and coronaviruses, suggesting the potential for a new broad-spectrum antiviral to help us fight viruses that are otherwise hard to treat. From a seasonal cold to a stomach bug, nobody likes catching a virus — and epidemics can be devastating. We need safe, sustainable antiviral options to treat the outbreaks of the future. Scientists in Finland have now shown that an extract of willow bark — a plant which has already provided several medicines, including the precursor to modern aspirin — has a broad-spectrum antiviral effect in cell sample experiments. The extract worked both on enveloped coronaviruses, which cause colds as well as Covid-19, and non-enveloped enteroviruses, which cause infections such as flu and meningitis. There are no clinically approved drugs which work against enteroviruses directly, so this extract could be a future game-changer. “We need broadly acting and efficient tools to combat […]