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Extracts of Euphorbia hirta Linn. (Euphorbiaceae) and Rauvolfia vomitoria Afzel (Apocynaceae) demonstrate activities against Onchocerca volvulus Microfilariae in vitro

Simon K Attah1*, Patrick F Ayeh-Kumi1, Archibald A Sittie2, Isaac V Oppong3 and Alexander K Nyarko4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology, University of Ghana Medical School, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana

2 Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine, Mampong-Akwapem, Ghana

3 Chemistry Department, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana

4 Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:66  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-66

Published: 18 March 2013



Onchocerciasis transmitted by Onchocerca volvulus is the second major cause of blindness in the world and it impacts negatively on the socio-economic development of the communities affected. Currently, ivermectin, a microfilaricidal drug is the only drug recommended for treating this disease. There have been speculations, of late, concerning O. volvulus resistance to ivermectin. Owing to this, it has become imperative to search for new drugs. World-wide, ethnomedicines including extracts of Euphorbia hirta and Rauvolfia vomitoria are used for treating various diseases, both infectious and non-infectious.


In this study extracts of the two plants were evaluated in vitro in order to determine their effect against O. volvulus microfilariae. The toxicity of the E. hirta extracts on monkey kidney cell (LLCMK2) lines was also determined.


The investigations showed that extracts of both plants immobilised microfilariae at different levels in vitro and, therefore, possess antifilarial properties. It was found that all the E. hirta extracts with the exception of the hexane extracts were more effective than those of R. vomitoria. Among the extracts of E. hirta the ethyl acetate fraction was most effective, and comparable to that of dimethanesulphonate salt but higher than that of Melarsoprol (Mel B). However, the crude ethanolic extract of E. hirta was found to be the least toxic to the LLCMK2 compared to the fractionated forms.


Extracts from both plants possess antifilarial properties; however, the crude extract of E. hirta was found to be least toxic to LLCMK2.

Euphorbia hirta; Rauvolfia vomitoria; Onchocerca volvulus; Microfilariae; In vitro