"Therefore, if my mother or my grandmother says that they will give me this tea, and it will make me better, and someone will come and say:" Oh, that was just a trick, I will give you the real medicine, & # 39; what's the difference? "asked Baum, who is a professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London.
“We decided that the difference is proof: if you take a natural medicine and test it, and it works, now it’s also a medicine,” Baum said. “So we came up with a soup project. We asked the children to bring a traditional soup, which their family will cook when someone feels unwell. ”
Sixty soups arrived, all incredibly varied. The children of Eden Elementary School, attended by Braum's son Gilly and daughter Rudy, serve families from all over Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
All of them were supposed to be vegetarian, meat or chicken soups based on the broth, which the family passed from generation to generation due to its regenerative properties.
“The children bought in the lumpiest soups, although we didn’t tell them,” Baum said. "The idea was to try to get some clear excerpt from this."
Working with the children, Baum was able to successfully filter out 56 soups that he took to the laboratory to check their medicinal properties.
What will be the test? Why malaria, of course, since it is the work of Baum's whole life. He and his team from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College are studying the deadliest type of malaria parasite called P. falciparum, responsible for 99% of deaths from malaria.
According to Baum, almost half a million children die each year from malaria transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Most of them are less than five years old.
“We are currently at some crossroads of global malaria control,” Baum said. “We have had decades of progress in reducing the number of deaths at the turn of the millennium. But we have reached the point where we somehow stalled in our progress, and there are some alarming signs of the emergence of drug resistance, just like you have resistance to bacterial antibiotics. "
Even advanced antimalarial drugs, called artemisinin-based combination therapy, or ACT, begin to lose their effectiveness as parasite resistance develops.
“The malaria parasite is one of the oldest parasites,” Baum said. “This is a very complex creature: it can change its shape, it can change its biology, and this greatly complicates the development of new drugs and new therapeutic agents.”
At first, Baum and his team did not plan to conduct all 56 trials; after all, no one expected soup to kill the malaria parasite.
“We thought we would just try,” Baum said. "And we were very surprised, some of the soups really worked well against the parasite."
In fact, five of the 56 soups blocked the growth of parasites in human blood by about 50%; two of them were as effective as the leading antimalarial drug, didroartemisinin. Four other broths were able to block the sexual development of the male parasite by about 50%.
“One of the most effective soups was vegetarian sauerkraut soup,” Baum said. “And you know, people sing the praise of kimchi and other sauerkraut, so maybe there's something to it.”
Baum published the results of the soup project on Monday in BMJ magazine. Will he continue to detect antimalarial ingredients in soups? No, this project is for others, he said.
“There are many people working on testing refined natural products that were taken from plants, from traditional means. From time to time, you come across something that really works, ”Baum said.
One of the problems, he continued, is that plants produce extremely complex molecules that science cannot yet synthesize, much less deliver on a massive scale, necessary to combat the spread of malaria around the world.
“But that shouldn't stop us from looking,” Baum said, pointing out his simple experiment in elementary school.
“It just shows that perhaps there is still a drug to be found, and we should not pay attention to traditional medicine just because it has not yet been tested.”