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Malar J. 2019 Apr 4;18(1):119. doi: 10.1186/s12936-019-2752-8.

In vitro and in vivo studies on anti-malarial activity of Commiphora africana and Dichrostachys cinerea used by the Maasai in Arusha region, Tanzania.

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Department of Parasitology and Entomology, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College, P. O. Box 2240, Moshi, Tanzania.
Medical Research and Applied Biochemistry Laboratory (Drug Discovery and Development Research Unit), University of Buea, P.O. Box 63, Buea, South West Region, Cameroon.
Department of Parasitology and Entomology, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College, P. O. Box 2240, Moshi, Tanzania.



Traditional medicinal plants are one of the potential sources of anti-malarial drugs and there is an increasing interest in the use and development of traditional herbal remedies for the treatment of malaria and other ailments. This study was carried out with the aim to investigate the phytochemical screening, cytotoxic effect and antiplasmodial activities of Dichrostachys cinerea and Commiphora africana. Both plants are used by the Maasai in Tanzania in suspected malaria and other diseases. No previous work appears to have investigated the potential anti-malarial activity of the two plants.


This study aimed to investigate the in vitro anti-malarial activity of methanol and dichloromethane extracts of the two plants against chloroquine sensitive (D6) and chloroquine resistant (Dd2) strains of Plasmodium falciparum. The anti-malarial property was assessed by the lactate dehydrogenase method (pLDH). The in vivo anti-malarial study was carried out using the Peters' 4-day suppressive test in Plasmodium berghei in Balb/c mice. Cytotoxic tests were carried out using monkey kidney epithelial cell line in [3(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide] (MTT) assay. Qualitative phytochemical screening was carried out using standard methods of analysis.


The phytochemical screening of plant extracts revealed the presence of alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, steroids, triterpenoids, glycosides and saponins. However, alkaloids were absent in most plant extracts. The dichloromethane extracts of C. africana (stem bark); D. cinerea (stem bark) and methanol extracts of D. cinerea (whole stem) all showed promising in vitro anti-malarial activities. All other extracts did not show any significant anti-malarial activity. The two most promising extracts based on in vitro studies, DCM extracts of C. africana (stem bark) and D. cinerea (stems bark), equally exhibited very significant anti-malarial activities in the mouse model. They exhibited parasite suppression rates of 64.24 and 53.12%, respectively, and considerable improvement in weight and survival rate. Most plant extracts were not cytotoxic except for DCM extract of D. cinerea (whole stem) CC50 (29.44 µg/mL).


The findings of this study provide scientific evidence supporting the traditional use of the plants in the treatment of malaria by the Maasai in Arusha region, Tanzania. Consequently, further work including bioassay-guided fractionation and advanced toxicity testing may yield new anti-malarial drug candidates from the two plants.


Antimalarial and cytotoxicity; Commiphora africana; Dichrostachys cinerea; Phytochemical screening

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