In Europe, approaches to natural product discovery for drug development have largely focussed on microbial secondary metabolites. The plants, plant products and other natural materials used to treat infection in traditional and historical pharmacopeias represent a further potential database of antimicrobial compounds. Extensive efforts to mine traditional medicines from Asia, South America and the Indian subcontinent for novel compounds are being made by local microbiologists and chemists and have led to drug development (e.g. the antimalarial compound artemisinin from Artemisia spp., developed after study of a historical Chinese medical text).
A concerted effort to characterise, assess and exploit the extensive written and oral record of natural products used in pre-modern European medicine has not been made. This is despite the presence in pre-modern European medical texts of natural products known to be effective in vivo (e.g. Artemisia spp. were used to treat malaria in medieval England) or shown to possess antimicrobial and/or immunomodulatory qualities in vitro (e.g. Allium spp., Plantago spp., Urtica spp.) Given rising antimicrobial resistance and a stalled R&D pipeline for compounds to treat and prevent infection, a thorough scientific evaluation of European ethnopharmacology is overdue.
The main barrier to successful exploitation of the natural compounds database represented by traditional European medicine is the lack a cohesive network for researchers. This focussed meeting will bring together researchers from diverse fields including microbiology, chemistry, botany and the history of medicine, along with industry contacts, to reveal the current “state of the art” of the field and define areas for collaboration, methods development and translational research.
This Focused Meeting will take place on 29 October at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Updates on this event can be found using the hashtag: #AMRmeds19