Thai supplement boosts immune system in HIV+ people
A Thai private company and the National Innovation Agency said last week that a natural supplement made from local plant extracts helps boost the immune systems of people living with HIV, and that when used in conjunction with antiretroviral drugs it can give them an even better chance of living long and normal lives.
The combination of extracts is known as APCOcap, named after the company that helped develop it: Asian Phytoceuticals Public Company Limited (APCO). The various plants from which the extracts were taken have also been the subjects of several studies over the past few decades by the National Innovation Agency (NIA).
“The good effects of the APCOcap are most evident in people who are HIV-positive as well as those who have tuberculosis,” the NIA said in a statement jointly released with APCO last week.
Dr. Pichaet Wiriyachitra of the Operation Balancing Immunity project, a group of researchers originally from Prince of Songkhla University, said the mixture of extracts had been administered to 120 people, including 70 HIV-positive children at the Baan Gerda home in Lopburi province, over a one-year period.
After taking APCOcap for one year, the CD4 cells of the children have risen by 67 percent on average, according to Pichaet. “Everyone is doing better,” he said at the press conference, adding that his team began working to develop the extracts about six years ago.
APCOcap is made from extracts of mangosteen, black sesame, soybean, guava and gotu kola, and the Food and Drug Administration has registered it as a supplementary food product.
Thailand is one of four countries in the Asia-Pacific region that have been most affected by the HIV epidemic. The Kingdom has also been at the forefront of anti-HIV research and vaccine trials, and the Thai public health response to the epidemic has been praised by the United Nations as a model for how developing countries can approach the epidemic.
At first, Thailand’s response centered on prevention and on care that could be provided to those who had been infected. Thai researchers were experimenting with several natural extracts at the time in hopes of finding a cure, but none proved effective. With the development of antiretroviral drugs, however, death rates from AIDS have plummeted. Antiretrovirals were first introduced in Thailand in the early 2000s and have been included in the Kingdom’s universal health care program.
Antiretrovirals require strict adherence or HIV will mutate and render the drugs ineffective. Immunity levels, measured by CD-4 counts in the blood, vary among individuals taking the medications. Those who begin treatment late have less success with the medications. The APCO supplement can enhance the effectiveness of antiretrovirals in boosting CD-4 counts, according to the researchers.
Thailand Focus September 14, 2015
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