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Anti-protozoal activity of aporphine and protoberberine alkaloids from Annickia kummeriae (Engl. & Diels) Setten & Maas (Annonaceae)

Hamisi M Malebo1*, Tanja Wenzler2, Monical Cal2, Sauda M Swaleh3, Maurice O Omolo7, Ahmed Hassanali4, Urs Séquin5, Daniel Häussinger5, Petur Dalsgaard6, Matthias Hamburger6, Reto Brun2 and Isaiah O Ndiege3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Traditional Medicine Research, National Institute for Medical Research, P.O. Box 9653, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

2 Medical Parasitology and Infection Biology, Parasite Chemotherapy Unit, Swiss Tropical Institute, University of Basel, Socinstrasse 57, Basel, CH-4002, Switzerland

3 Department of Chemistry, Kenyatta University, P.O. Box 43844, Nairobi, Kenya

4 International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology, P.O. Box 30772, Nairobi, Kenya

5 Institute of Organic Chemistry, University of Basel, St Johanns Ring 19, Basel, CH-4052, Switzerland

6 Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 50, Basel, CH-4056, Switzerland

7 Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, Masinde Muliro University of Science & Technology, P. O. Box 190, Kakamega, Kenya

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:48  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-48

Published: 27 February 2013



Malaria, trypanosomiasis and leishmaniasis have an overwhelming impact in the poorest countries in the world due to their prevalence, virulence and drug resistance ability. Currently, there is inadequate armory of drugs for the treatment of malaria, trypanosomiasis and leishmaniasis. This underscores the continuing need for the discovery and development of new anti-protozoal drugs. Consequently, there is an urgent need for research aimed at the discovery and development of new effective and safe anti-plasmodial, anti-trypanosomal and anti-leishmanial drugs.


Bioassay-guided chromatographic fractionation was employed for the isolation and purification of antiprotozoal alkaloids.


The methanol extract from the leaves of Annickia kummeriae from Tanzania exhibited a strong anti-plasmodial activity against the multi-drug resistant Plasmodium falciparum K1 strain (IC50 0.12 ± 0.01 μg/ml, selectivity index (SI) of 250, moderate activity against Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense STIB 900 strain (IC50 2.50 ± 0.19 μg/ml, SI 12) and mild activity against Leishmania donovani axenic MHOM-ET-67/82 strain (IC50 9.25 ± 0.54 μg/ml, SI 3.2). Bioassay-guided chromatographic fractionation led to the isolation of four pure alkaloids, lysicamine (1), trivalvone (2), palmatine (3), jatrorrhizine (4) and two sets of mixtures of jatrorrhizine (4) with columbamine (5) and palmatine (3) with (−)-tetrahydropalmatine (6). The alkaloids showed low cytotoxicity activity (CC50 30 - >90 μg/ml), strong to moderate anti-plasmodial activity (IC50 0.08 ± 0.001 - 2.4 ± 0.642 μg/ml, SI 1.5-1,154), moderate to weak anti-trypanosomal (IC50 2.80 ± 0.001 – 14.3 ± 0.001 μg/ml, SI 2.3-28.1) and anti-leishmanial activity IC50 2.7 ± 0.001 – 20.4 ± 0.003 μg/ml, SI 1.7-15.6).


The strong anti-plasmodial activity makes these alkaloids good lead structures for drug development programs.

Annickia kummeriae; Enantia kummeriae; Annonaceae; Alkaloids; Aporphine; Protoberberine; Antiplasmodial; Antitrypanosomal; Antileishmanial; Cytotoxicity