Native plant gives hope in rheumatoid arthritis

13 July 2015

13 July 2015

Clare Pain

extracts of mountain pepper are effective antibiotic against bacteria that may trigger RA
Image courtesy of CSIRO

Extracts of the Australian plant known as mountain pepper have a high antibiotic activity against bacteria that may be a trigger for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Australian researchers have found.

Leaves and peppercorns of  Tasmania lanceolata, also known as mountain pepper, are more effective at killing the bacterium Proteus mirabilis than conventional antibiotics such as ampicillin or chloramphenicol, the study authors from Griffith University say.

“My contention is that at the moment all we are doing for RA is really only treating the symptoms. No one is really looking at the causative agent”, says first author, Dr Ian Cock, a medicinal plants researcher.

“There have been a number of different bacteria that have been thought to be the causative agent for RA,” he adds. “The evidence is very strong that Proteus is the one”, he adds.

Urinary tract infections with  P.mirabilis are the most likely trigger for RA, he says.

The researchers tested a range of plants used by traditional Indigenous people to see how effective they were at killing the bacterium.

“The leaves of  T. lanceolata were the best“, says Dr Cock.

But the plant was probably not used by Indigenous Australians to treat RA.

“In the case of Tasmanian pepper – there really wasn’t any evidence that we could find that the first Australians used it as a medicinal plant. It was more used as a culinary plant, but it is high in antioxidants,” he adds.

Last Reviewed: 13 July 2015
Reproduced with kind permission from 6minutes.com.au.

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