Researchers find potentially active Omani medicinal plant

Salalah: Researchers in Oman in partnership with international scientists have achieved a rare scientific breakthrough by isolating, characterizing, and elucidating three new organic compounds, which were never known before.

The work, published recently in the Journal of Natural Products, was done on a local traditional Omani plant known as ‘Woodfordia uniflora’.

After two years of extensive research, the teams of Dhofar University’s (DU) Research Center and South Korean University’s College of Pharmacy achieved this breakthrough.

Prof Luay Rashan, Principal Investigator at DU Research Center, said, the organic compounds were screened against two well know pathogenic fungi that are responsible for many infections in humans.

“The first pathogenic fungus is known Candida Albicans which causes genital infections. Whereas, the second fungus is known as Cryptococcus Neoformans which causes an infection associated with immunosuppressive individuals and usually spread throughout the nervous system.”

It was found the three new compounds are active against the two fungi. However, one of these compounds which are named ‘Woodfordiamycin’ was potentially very active against both fungi especially the second fungus and this activity was 10 times more than the well-known drug used in the clinics named as Fluconazole, said Prof Luay Rashan .

Prof Luay revealed that the synthesis of ‘Woodfordiamycin’ is underway. For this, an arrangement has been done between the research teams of Dhofar University and Martin-Luther King University, Germany.

“We hope to blindly screen the compound first which could be a future antibiotic. We believe it will attract the attention of big names pharmaceutical sector,” said an elated Prof Luay.

‘Woodfordia uniflora’, according to Prof Luay is a flowering shrub unique to the Dhofar region of Oman and is used locally as a sedative and remedy for skin infection.

“However, no study to date has examined the pharmacological properties of this plant, and studies regarding phytochemicals present W. uniflora are limited. The phytochemical screening of the extract of W. uniflora was performed using three new organic compounds, which were never known before.”

Prof Luay calls the findings a major achievement for Oman in general and Dhofar University in particular. He hopes to come out with many more valuable pieces of research in the near future.