Professor Christian Agyare, Provost, College of Health Sciences, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), says Ghana must take ethnopharmacological studies seriously to preserve traditional medicinal knowledge.
“Especially in developing countries, almost every year or day, traditional knowledge of medicinal plants decreases, without necessarily being transferred to younger people.
“Therefore, ethnopharmacological studies help to maintain this knowledge, and in this case, to show how medicinal plants and other naturally-derived compounds are specifically used in the treatment and management of diseases.” Prof. Agyare stated.
Delivering the Professorial Inaugural Lecture, organised by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), at the Great Hall, Kumasi, the pharmacological research scientist said natural products had served as an important source of drugs since ancient times.
“About 10 per cent of the useful drugs today are derived from natural sources,” he disclosed.
Ethnopharmacology is the interdisciplinary study of the physiological actions of plant, animal, and other substances used in indigenous medicines from past and present cultures.
Prof. Agyare, in the paper delivered, a copy made available to the Ghana News Agency (GNA), indicated that, in 2018, the global market size for wound care was valued at US$ 18.4 billion.
“This is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 3.9 per cent from 2019 to 2026.
“With official data from Africa being difficult to find, there are records for over 8.2 million people suffering from wounds in the United States of America (USA) alone – which depicts the importance of a systematic drug discovery effort to provide solutions for this public health concern,” the Provost noted, citing multiple sources, including the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A concept note underpinning the research looks at how the emergence and global spread of drug-resistant pathogens with newly-acquired resistance mechanisms, have on the viability of currently available antimicrobial agents.
“Especially disturbing is the spread of multi and pan-resistant bugs that cannot be treated with the existing antimicrobial agents.
“With new agents urgently needed in the treatment and management of disturbing chronic wounds and resistant infections such as carbapenem-resistant Gram-negative bacterial infections, natural product drug discovery efforts should be prioritised, intensified and supported,” Prof. Agyare argued.
The pharmacological research scientist pointed out the need for such efforts to be supported by strong antimicrobial stewardship advocacy and campaigns to prevent global public health threats posed by resistant strains of microorganisms.
According to him, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) had a significant financial and health burden on the country.
“In the worst consequence, if there is no timely intervention, would result in increased mortalities from infections, because of treatment failures, infections associated with invasive medical procedures such as surgeries, caesarean sections, organ transplants, and cancer chemotherapies,” Prof. Agyare cautioned.
According to him, scientific credence and research findings had been given to the folkloric use of some families of plants in the management of acute and chronic wounds, and also explored as potential agents for effective wound management.
“Some families of plants that have produced potential therapeutic benefits include ‘phyllanthaceae,’ ‘solanaceae,’ ‘euphorbiaceae,’ ‘urticaceae,’ ‘combretaceae’ and ‘rutaceae’ (Boakye et al., 2018, Abdul-Nasir-Deen et al., 2020; Asumang et al., 2021),” he noted.
Additionally, studies have also established the antibacterial activity of plant species such as ‘Cnestis ferruginea,’ ‘Cyperus difformis,’ ‘Paullinia pinnata,’ ‘Phyllantus muellerianus’ and ‘Portulaca oleracea’ against bacteria strains commonly implicated in infections in humans.
These include boils, carbuncles, typhoid fever and upper respiratory infections.
Prof. Agyare cited other plants with established wound healing potential and discussed the diverse flora from the Bosomtwi-Atwima-Kwanwoma area of the Ashanti region.
“Through interviews and structured questionnaires, traditional healers from about 54 communities alluded to the wound healing benefits of several plants widespread in the Bosomtwi-Atwima-Kwanwoma area.
“These include 104 plant species belonging to 47 families with their details being documented,” the Provost hinted.
He said the “in vitro activity of these plants on the cell physiology of keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts – which are key to wound healing were investigated.”
Also, the anti-adhesive activity of these plants against Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial agent implicated in most ulcers, on human stomach cells were also investigated and found to exhibit strong anti-adhesive activities against Helicobacter pylori.
According to the Provost, three plants commonly used by herbal practitioners surveyed in their line of work, that is, ‘Phyllanthus muellerianus,’ ‘Pycnanthus angolensis’ and ‘Combretum smeathmanni,’ “were found to have significantly influenced mitochondrial activity and proliferation of dermal fibroblast and keratinocytes.”
These are key elements or agents in the wound healing process, Prof. Agyare informed.
The topic for the Professorial Inaugural Lecture was: “Treating Non-Curable Infectious Diseases and Wounds with Natural Knowledge and Products: The Relevance of Ethnopharmacological Studies.”
Prof. Agyare, in his delivery, touched on ‘Ethnopharmacology and Ethnobotany and their Role in the Treatment of Wounds and Infectious diseases.’
Other areas include ‘The Reality of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and How Best to Address it through Natural Product Research and National Policies,’ ‘The Prospects of Natural Products and their Potential Role in Cancer Therapy.’
Prof. Mrs. Rita Akosua Dickson, the KNUST Vice-Chancellor, lauded the College of Health Sciences Provost for his immense contribution to research work and scientific findings, which had been beneficial to humanity.
The programme had in attendance a strong presence of the academia, including past KNUST Vice-Chancellors, College Provosts, pharmaceutical scientists and pharmacologists, the international research science community, as well as Ministers of State, traditional authorities, students and the clergy.