The popular spice ginger shows promise as a treatment for bacteria-induced diarrhea, the leading cause of infant death in developing countries, according to a preliminary study in animals conducted by researchers in Taiwan.
If confirmed by further studies, the findings could lead to an inexpensive, easy-to-obtain alternative to drug therapy for the condition, the researchers say.
In studies using laboratory mice, Chien-Yun Hsiang and colleagues showed that an extract of ginger blocked the toxin responsible for diarrhea caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (E. coli), which accounts for 210 million cases of diarrhea worldwide and causes 380,000 deaths yearly. They also showed that zingerone, a component of ginger, is the likely compound responsible for this effect.
"In conclusion, our findings provide evidence that ginger and its derivatives may be effective herbal supplements for the clinical treatment of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli diarrhea," the researchers state. Additional studies are needed to determine the effective doses of ginger needed and whether it is safe for infants, who may experience unexpected side effects from large doses.
This study, "Ginger and Its Bioactive Component Inhibit Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli Heat-Labile Enterotoxin-Induced Diarrhea in Mice," will appear in the Oct. 3 issue of ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
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