Science or just Mythological Hocus-Pocus : Dengue Fever and Papaya Leaf Extract

in hive-177682 •  last month  (edited)

Hello Steemit!

Reading tons of articles on the speculation over the Steemit Tron Saga, I haven't been able to post any science articles (which is my primary niche here) the past few days.

But it did give me the idea of coming up with this series where I will be debunking some traditional beliefs whether they have any science to back it up, or are they just pure hocus-pocus!

As a doctor,

I will only be choosing the traditional beliefs we encounter in the field of Medicine.

Episode 1 : Dengue Fever

I'm sure if you or someone close to you have had suffered from Dengue Fever, you know a test called Platelet Count is done on a daily basis to monitor progress of the disease. And you also have probably seen the doctors get a little worried when the platelet count starts to fall.

What are platelets, you ask!

Well, platelets are small cells that circulate in the blood. I will not go into detail of how platelets do what they do (that needs an entirely different post), but what you need to for this article is, why all the fuss over the number of platelets in the blood! Platelets serve to form a clot when there's an injury to a blood vessel which will stop the bleeding and stop us bleeding out to death from every teenie-tiny minor cuts or minor internal injuries to the blood vessels!

Forming a blood clot is an extremely complicated process and involves many other clotting factors, deficiency of any of those will hamper clot formation. But platelets form the first bit of aggregation, gives the first spark if you want, for the formation of a full fledged blood clot!

So, now that we know why platelets are important...

It should be very obvious now that when the platelet counts fall to dangerously low levels, the patient will spontaneously bleed from day to day activities, brushing teeth for example. Or you're cleaning your nose and the rubbing causes you to start bleeding...things like these. Not a good thing right? And this is why the platelet count is important to monitor.

Dangerously low levels might even require admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Traditional Practices

So understandably different cultures have tried out different things that they believe will increase platelet count. These practices are more common in the Asian countries where traditional medicinal practices are still big (even in this era of modern medical developments). You've all heard of traditional chinese medicine, or Ayurvedic Medicine. These are the most famous ones, but there are such traditional practices in all communities.

A lot of these practices have no sciences backing them and are practiced based on just assumptions.

One such assumption was the the extracted juice of papaya leaves can help increase the platelet count in patients with dengue fever. But this assumption stirred a lot of interest in the scientific community as increasingly more and more patients showed increased platelet count after taking the papaya leaf extract.

1.jpg

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Whispers began in the scientific communities across the globe.

Could it be...? Was there some actual science to it?

And thus began the quest to solve the mystery.

There were a lot of papers published in different journals. But we gotta look at the reliable journals when it comes to concepts like these which has no previous, solid scientific background to it.

Statistical Evidences spurred the quest further!

A paper published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information - NCBI stated :

On the 2nd day platelet count of both study and control groups was not significantly different, but on 3rd day platelet count of study group was significantly higher than control group. On 4th and 5th day platelet count of study group was also significantly higher than the control group.

There's two things we need to understand from this statement.

First,

What is a control and study group. A study group is the group of patient who are given the medicine under investigation (papaya leaf extract in this scenario) and a control group is the group that doesn't get the aforementioned medicine and receives treatment under current guidelines. The control group is used to compare the differences in outcome of the patients who are receiving the medicine under study.

Secondly,

And more importantly, we need to understand what is meant by the word significantly in the context of research studies. Here significantly isn't just a run of the mill use word! In a study, the word significance means statistically significant. This means if the difference is said to be significant, it means there's mathematical evidence that the difference isn't just a fluke, it has actual value in deciding the conclusion of the study.

So, when the paper says there was significant difference between the two groups, it means that the use of papaya extract did in fact increase the platelet count. So it wasn't just hocus-pocus!!

There are a lot more studies published, some reliable, some unreliable, with similar findings, so I'm not gonna bore you guys with repeated statistical data!

There are more studies being conducted, on a much wider scale, which will increase the reliability of these findings and provide solid mathematical confirmation of the hypothesis.

Biochemical Evidences

In the meantime, studies were also done on trying to identify exactly how odes papaya leaf extract increase platelet counts. An interesting finding on studying the Full Blood Count reports of the study subjects was that not only did the platelet count increased, the number of red blood cells also increased in the subjects receiving the extract. Thus the hypothesis put forward was :

There could be some active compounds in C. papaya leaves that can enhance haemopoiesis and thrombopoiesis in animals.

There is an enzyme naturally present in animals, arachidonate 12-lipoxygenase (ALOX 12). This enzyme functions to cause differentiation of megakaryocytes, the precursors to Platelets. Megakaryotes differentiate into platelets.

Guess what we found in a study published in 2016 when samples from patients receiving papaya leaf extract were analyzed! ALOX 12!

The RNA extracted from the blood of the patients who were administered the extract showed a 15-fold increase in the ALOX 12 gene activity.

But that's not all!

Further studies also identified a flavonoid compound called quercetin, which is a potent inhibitor of NS2B-NS3 serine protease of the Dengue Virus Serotype B, thus inhibiting replication of the dengue virus.

But more studies need to be conducted before this becomes an FDA approved treatment protocol.

But for now, the signs are promising. Maybe the is a lot of science behind some traditional practices. I repeat, some traditional practices!

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If you enjoy medical topics, or want to learn how different things work in this amazing human body, please make sure to follow me at @simplifylife

Join the Steemstem Discord if you want to start writing high quality science articles as well!!

Peace!!

References

Effect of Carica papaya Leaf Extract Capsule on Platelet Count in Patients of Dengue Fever with Thrombocytopenia.

Does Carica papaya leaf-extract increase the platelet count?

Dengue fever treatment with Carica papaya leaves extracts

Extract of Carica papaya L. leaves: Standardising its use in dengue fever

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Great post. Eagerly following you... intersection between trad folk remedies and science is fascinating..

Thanks so much!

Yes, I see the potential of natural remedies being discarded out by so many doctors and researchers these day, but as a doctor practising western medicine, I find it extremely benefecial when I'm able to incorporate some natural remedy along with the necessary pharmaceutical drugs.

The potential, if enough research done, is massive with natural remedies. But the general population also needs to find the right balance between how mich to rely on natural remedies alone and not discard western medicine totally. It's all about finding the balance.

Never trust words were spoken. It's never good advice to blindly trust wellness bloggers and not look more deeply at science. It worries me when people was lyrical about cancer cures for example, with no understanding of the disease.

It's refreshing to hear from a doctor who isnt dismissive of natural remedies, or alternatives.

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