Assessment of the anti-snakebite properties of extracts of Aniba fragrans Ducke (Lauraceae) used in folk medicine as complementary treatment in cases of envenomation by Bothrops atrox

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Ethnopharmacological relevance: Extracts of leaves and bark of Aniba fragrans are used as tea (decoction) to treat snakebites in communities in the Brazilian Amazon. The aqueous extract of the leaves of A. fragrans has been proven to be effective against Bothrops venom, but only when pre-incubated with the venom. This study sought to assess the potential of different types of extract of this species to inhibit the biological activities of Bothrops atrox venom (BaV) when used the same way as in folk medicine. The main classes of secondary metabolites and the concentrations of phenolics in the extracts were also determined. Materials and methods: Four types of extract of A. fragrans were prepared: aqueous extract of the leaf (AEL), aqueous extract of the bark (AEB), hydroalcoholic leaf extract (HLE) and extract of the residue from hydro distillation of the leaf (ERHL). The phytochemical profiles of the aqueous extracts were determined using thin layer chromatography (TLC), and the concentrations of phenolics were measured by colorimetric assays. To investigate the potential of the extracts to inhibit the biological activities of BaV, in vitro tests for antiphospholipase and antifibrinolytic activities were performed. In vivo tests for antihemorrhagic and antidefibrinating activities were also carried out, as well as antimicrobial tests for activity against the main bacteria found in the oral cavity of snakes. Interaction between the extracts and the proteins in BaV was assessed by electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and Western blot (WB). The cytotoxicity of the extracts was assessed in a strain of MRC-5 human fibroblasts. Results: Terpenoids, flavonoids and condensed and hydrolysable tannins were detected in all the extracts. Metabolites such as coumarins, fatty acids and alkaloids were present in some extracts but not in others, indicating different phytochemical profiles. Phenolics content varied between extracts, and there were more tannins in AEB and HLE. In the in vitro tests, the extracts inhibited the phospholipase and fibrinolytic activities of BaV in the two ratios of venom to extract used. HLE exhibited effective antimicrobial action as it inhibited growth of 11 of the 15 bacteria investigated, including Morganella morganii, the main bacteria described in the oral cavity of snakes. The extracts failed to inhibit the defibrinating activity of BaV, and only the Bothrops antivenom had a significant effect (96.1%) on this activity. Bay-induced hemorrhage was completely inhibited by AEL and AEB when the pre-incubation (venom:extract) protocol was used. When administered orally, as in folk medicine, both AEB and AEL produced significant inhibition of hemorrhagic activity (maximum inhibition 46.5% and 39.2%, respectively). SDS-PAGE and WB of the extracts pre-incubated with BaV showed that the main proteins in the venom had been precipitated by the extracts. None of the four extracts showed cytotoxic effects in the tests carried out with a human fibroblast cell line. Conclusion: In addition to being effective in reducing hemorrhage when administered orally, the extracts displayed a high antimicrobial potential against microorganisms involved in secondary infections at the site of the snakebite. Once the extracts have been tested in accordance with the appropriate regulations, this species could potentially be used to produce a phytomedicine for complementary treatment of the secondary infections due to bacteria that aggravate the local signs and symptoms after snakebite envenomation.
Moura VM, Guimarães NC, Batista LT, Freitas-de-Sousa LA, Martins JS, Scheffer de Souza MC, et al. Assessment of the anti-snakebite properties of extracts of Aniba fragrans Ducke (Lauraceae) used in folk medicine as complementary treatment in cases of envenomation by Bothrops atrox. J. Ethnopharmacol. 2018 Mar;213:350-8. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2017.11.027.
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