Medicinal plants used against malaria in Mali have previously been tested for their antiplasmodial activities using their organic solvent and water extracts. As the healers mainly use the water extracts for their treatments of malaria-patients, our aim was to study the water-soluble components from Malian plants used for treatment of malaria. Argemone mexicana (aerial parts), Sarcocephalus latifolius (root bark), Vitex doniana (leaves), and Malarial-5® (an improved traditional medicine (ITM) in tea) were the objects of our studies. Water extracts of these plants contained primarily polysaccharides. Due to this, the studies focused on the determination of the monosaccharide composition of the polymers present as well as assessing the immunomodulatory properties of the polysaccharide fractions isolated from these plants. Each plant material was extracted sequentially with dichloromethane, 80% ethanol and water at 100°C. The polysaccharides were obtained using gel filtration of the aqueous extracts and their monosaccharide compositions were determined using gas chromatography. Immunomodulatory effects were assessed using the complement fixation test and macrophage stimulation. All aqueous extracts from the four samples contained polysaccharides. The monosaccharide compositions vary between the plants. Arabinose, rhamnose, galactose, glucose and galacturonic acid were present in all samples, glucose being the main monomer. These polysaccharides showed complement fixing activity and induced nitrite oxide release from macrophages in a dose dependent manner. The polysaccharide fractions of A. mexicana (Am1) and V. doniana (Vd1) showed the most potent activities. These two fractions had an ICH50 of 2.4 and 6.3 μg/mL respectively in the complement fixation assay. The same two fractions induced a dose dependent release of nitrite oxide from macrophages. The results demonstrated that antimalarial plants contain polysaccharides with immunomodulatory properties. This preliminary work constitutes a new approach of antimalarial studies.
Key words: Polysaccharides, immunomodulatory effects, antimalarial plants, Mali.
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