Anti-malaria drug could be beneficial as ‘polycystic ovary syndrome’ treatment

A study in humans and laboratory animals shows that a compound used to treat malaria could improve the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.

A drug against malaria could be used in the case of a hormonal disorder PHOTO: ARCHIVE

“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome” (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder characterized by high levels of male hormones called androgens. These high levels of androgens cause a number of symptoms such as irregular menstrual cycles, excessive hair growth and acne. Complications of this condition include infertility and metabolic problems, including insulin resistance, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to livescience.

Although PCOS affects between 10% and 13% of women of reproductive age, researchers do not fully understand the root cause of this condition. It remains difficult to diagnose and treat, and available treatments – such as birth control pills and blood sugar control drugs – only address the symptoms of the condition.

Now, a new study has shown that an antimalarial drug called artemisinin can alleviate some symptoms of PCOS, possibly by addressing its root cause.

The results, published in the journal Science, show that artemisinin and its derivatives significantly improved PCOS symptoms, such as irregular hormone cycles, in both humans and rodents.

For the study, 19 people with symptoms of PCOS, including irregular periods and excessive testosterone levels, participated. The ultrasound also showed that they had enlarged ovaries with multiple fluid-filled sacs on them.

Participants took an artemisinin derivative orally three times a day for three months. There was no group receiving a placebo drug for comparison, so this is a limitation of the study.

The treatment had no side effects

The treatment, which had no reported side effects, appeared to reduce testosterone levels in all participants. In most participants, levels of anti-müllerian hormone – which the ovaries produce in excess in PCOS – also decreased.

These hormonal changes coincided with fewer cysts, less ovarian enlargement, and more regular menstrual cycles in most participants.

“The findings suggest that artemisinin is a potentially effective treatment for PCOS“said Anna Benrick, a physiologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, who was not involved in the research.

However, the study was limited in that it included only a small group of people. For now, it’s unclear whether artemisinin improves additional symptoms of COPD, such as metabolic problems, Benrick told Live Science.

To find out how artemisinin might treat COPD, researchers turned to rodents. They found that in the ovaries of mice and rats, the drug destroyed an enzyme called CYP11A1, which is essential for the production of androgens. This likely prevents the overproduction of androgens that cause most PCOS symptoms.

“Since high testosterone is one of the main features and the cause of most symptoms and comorbidities related to PCOS, treatment aimed at reducing androgen production is a rational target”Benrick stated.

According to the cited source, artemisinin “represents a promising new approach for lowering these androgens.”