Honduran product helps AIDS victims
8, 1997 Online Edition 70
nursery view near Lago de Yojoa. It takes one year before the first crop can be
Over a year
ago, it was reported that a newly developed natural product made from an
uncommon Honduran fern was proven to help many sufferers of auto-immune diseases
such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and vitiligo. Following this report, an
AIDS victim living in San Pedro Sula contacted Helechos International, Honduras
S.A. de C.V., (HIH) -- the product manufacturer -- and requested to try the
product to see whether it would help his condition.
pre-testing and an interview with HIH research director Antonio Alcaide, he
started on a course of treatment with the concentrated extract of the fern Polypodium
Leucotomos. Improvement were dramatic. Weight gain was rapid, and
within two weeks he felt markedly better.
were started, mostly on victims in a debilitated state, but before the
appearance of Kaposi's sarcoma, pneumonia, and the opportunistic infections that
plague advanced AIDS cases. Similar results were obtained in the other 25 cases
test to date has been 8 months, with no sign of relapse.
does not cure AIDS. All patients remain HIV positive, indicating that they still
have the infection. It does appear that their natural immune system has been
strengthened, enabling their body to function in a near normal manner. The
mechanism of improvement is not clear at this time, and tests are being planned
with the University of Miami to do a more detailed clinical study on a larger
number of patients.
It may be
premature to declare the Polypodium
an unqualified success. Testing duration is still short, and the number of
tests small, but the fact that all have improved markedly, and without any
undesirable side effects, is most encouraging. AIDS is possibly the most
important infectious disease today, and anything that mitigates the disease
would be considered a Godsend.
trademarked EXPLY 37, is derived from a rare fern growing near Lake Yojoa that
is specially cultivated in closely controlled conditions of temperature,
humidity, sunlight, soil moisture, and soil acidity. The fern leaves are
difficult to find in nature, and only the leaves have the active ingredients.
HIH general manager Jorge Mendoza says it costs about US$250,000 per acre to
create the growing conditions necessary. The project is labor intensive. Over 40
people work at Lake Yojoa and produce the ferns on about 10 acres.
is an outgrowth of a project initiated by the National Autonomous University of
Honduras 20 years ago to identify new natural products of medical value. The Polypodium
family was one of two Honduran plant species deemed of special interest. More
specifically, the subgenus phlebodium
is the fern with the high quantity of active ingredient. A plantation to produce
the plant was started, but the project died and the plantation was in ruin eight
years ago. HIH bought the assets from the Honduran government a few years ago
and began to produce the concentrated product sold in Spain as a prescription
drug under the name DIFUR. The product is most commonly sold in capsules, the
DIFUR containing about 250 milligrams of active ingredient per capsule. DIFUR
can be purchased in Honduran pharmacies without a prescription.
In the last
year, a new stage of production has been added, and a syrup is being produced
that contains about 1 gram of active ingredient per 5 milliliters, about one
teaspoon. This product, called Inmunoviral jarabe (syrup), is not yet in drug
stores but can be purchased directly from HIH. This is the product that HIH has
been using to treat AIDS, and HIH expects to sell it soon under the new
trademark EXPLY 37.
general manager Jorge Mendoza shows the extraction vessel where the active
ingredient is first washed from the fern leaves.
cultivation takes place in carefully controlled conditions of light,
humidity, moisture, temperature, and soil acidity. Harvesting of a crop can
occur after one year of development, and every four months thereafter. After
harvest, the sun-dried leaves are bagged and shipped to the HIH plant at El
Picacho, near Tegucigalpa.
are then transferred to an extraction vessel, where the leaves are washed for a
considerable period of time with alcohol to extract the active ingredients. Next
follow several stages of purification and concentration in order to achieve the
quality of product necessary to be biologically effective.
purified product is dried and after testing is placed in capsules or made into
the syrup that is now being experimentally used in AIDS research. The finished
product is attractively packaged for sale. Tests indicate that the product is
practically non-toxic, even in doses far greater than those now being used in
studies on AIDS patients.
In a recent
interview, an AIDS patient said he had been preparing to die when he read an
article about the HIH immunoregulator product and its use in such diseases as
arthritis. He said he contacted HIH on his own initiative and requested to try
the product for his condition. After pre-clinical testing and an interview, HIH
improvement was rapid and dramatic. He says his weight gain was about one pound
per week -- he was considerably underweight on starting the test. The patient is
visibly healthy, leads an active life, and manages his own business on a full
time basis. Before starting the HIH product, he slept several hours during the
business day because he simply was not strong enough to keep active.
said they had no reason to expect such a positive dramatic effect from the
product. The results moved them to initiate a study to find out if other AIDS
victims could be helped by their Polypodium product.
HIH selected others, normally in a debilitated state, but before opportunistic
infections like Kaposi's sarcoma, pneumonia manifested themselves. Results were
similarly dramatic. Recently, testing has expanded to include cases of AIDS that
are more advanced, and with lower levels of helper T- cells, the cells that the
AIDS virus kills. It is too early to comment on results of these tests.
Due to the
lack of advanced testing facilities in Honduras, a large clinical trial is being
developed by HIH in conjunction with the University of Miami. This test should
document thoroughly the type of improvement the HIH product makes on the AIDS
patient, and lead to an understanding of the mechanism of improvement. In the
Long term, this could very well lead to new methods of managing AIDS patients.
So far, the
HIH product has not been used on any patients that have been undergoing the
classical U.S. AIDS treatment, which includes AZT, 3TC, and Crixavan and costs
about US$1,200 per month. Mendoza says the cost of treatment with his EXPLY 37
product will cost about US$100 per month in Honduras. There is no way to compare
the effectiveness of the treatment, but it seems clear that the HIH product has
no toxic side effects, while the U.S. cocktail treatment has a number of very
serious long-term side effects.
To date, none
of the AIDS patients have paid for the products HIH has provided them for the
test. The product has been given in return for the test results. Obviously, at
some point HIH will have to be paid for their product. It is a serious business
with significant expenses.
other potential uses for the Polypodium
product. Some positive results have been obtained in limited testing on people
with multiple sclerosis. Results seem to be similar to those obtained with beta
interferon, but without side effects. Other testing has been done on patients
with Alzheimer's disease, but so far without much impact.
interesting to note that the HIH product is a beneficiary of the studies being
done to enhance biodiversity. It was in seeking to find medicinal properties in
rare plants that the benefits of the Polypodium
extract were scientifically quantified. There is a strong message here to
protect the environment.
If the HIH
product continues to show significant merit in treating AIDS patients, it will
mean a lot of growth for HIH, and will be a real help to the Honduran economy.
This could develop into one of the most exciting stories of the century, in
Honduras and around the world.
information about HIH, Helechos International, Honduras, S.A. de C.V. can be
contacted at: Apartado Postal 5380,