Kenyan develops an ‘antiretroviral’ from pumpkins to fight HIV/AIDS

Michael Ngugi has developed Pumpkin Elgon Cream that is touted as a homegrown antiretroviral. 
After a decade-old research, a Kenyan researcher has developed an indigenous pumpkin variety that promises to help fight opportunistic diseases that attack people living with the HIV/AIDS virus.

Having spent the last 36 years doing his research in Kenya and Tanzania, Michael Ngugi has come up with ‘Pumpkin Elgon Cream’, the first pumpkin of its kind to be developed in Kenya by the researcher and being hailed as a major step in the management of HIV/AIDS.

It is the latest variety in a chain of indigenous varieties that include grain amaranth, night shade and spider plant.

Pumpkin Elgon Cream matures faster than other varieties.

Ngugi says the pumpkin is important in the management of HIV/Aids and it is the only variety that he developed that medical experts compared to an indigenous antiretroviral therapy (ART).

His works have been hailed by Edmund Kayombo, the man who carried out research in Indigenous Knowledge and HIV/Aids Prevention and Management in Local Communities in Africa South of the Sahara.

“The scarcity of many essential drugs, including antiretroviral drugs in rural and also in some urban centres in developing countries means that most people will continue to use traditional herbal treatments for HIV-related conditions, including opportunistic infections,” says Kayombo.

HIV virus enters the body and begins to destroy T cells needed to fight infections. The disease alters the immune system, making people much more vulnerable to infections and diseases. This susceptibility worsens as the syndrome progresses.

The virus progresses in the absence of ART – a drug therapy that slows or prevents the growth of new HIV viruses.

Good nutrition is also vital to help improve the quality of life of persons living with HIV/Aids.
Infection with HIV damages the immune system, which leads to other infections such as fever and diarrhoea. These infections can lower food intake because they reduce appetite and interfere with the body’s ability to absorb food. As a result, the patient becomes malnourished, loses weight and is weakened, says World Health Organisation’s guidelines on better care of HIV/Aids infected persons.

Adherence to the medication has been proven to help individuals attain viral suppression – that is reducing the viral load to the extent that HIV is no longer transmissible.

Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for HIV, but treatments have evolved which are much more effective and better tolerated and can improve patients’ general health and quality of life considerably.

Pumpkins are known to contain antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals and provide ammunition to fight against opportunistic diseases.

Two years after Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) registered the vegetable as a national variety, farmers in warm and highland areas have embraced it.
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