Back to search

What is the state of the art on traditional medicine interventions for zoonotic diseases in the Indian subcontinent? A scoping review of the peer-reviewed evidence base


Background: Traditional medicine (TM) interventions are plausible therapeutic alternatives to conventional medical interventions against emerging and endemic zoonotic diseases, particularly in low-and middle-income countries that may lack resources and infrastructure. Despite the growing popularity in the usage of TM interventions, their clinical safety and effectiveness are still contested within conventional healthcare in many countries.

Methods: We conducted a scoping review of the peer-reviewed literature that synthesises and maps the evidence on TM interventions for the treatment and prevention of zoonoses on the Indian subcontinent. The region, a global hotspot of biodiversity and emerging infections, is characterised by high prevalence of TM use. Based on the scientific literature (mostly case study research, n=l06 studies), our review (1) maps the scope of the literature, (2) synthesises the evidence on the application of TM interventions for zoonoses, and (3) critically reflects on the state of TM and identifies areas for future research focus.

Results: The evidence synthesis confirmed widespread usage of TM interventions for zoonoses on the subcontinent, with the majority of research reported from India (n=99 studies, 93.4%), followed by Pakistan (n=3 studies, 2.8%), Bangladesh (n=2 studies, 1.9%), and Sri Lanka (n=1, 0.9%). Most of the reviewed studies reported on ethno-medicinal uses of plant species, primarily for treating dengue (n=20 studies), tuberculosis (n=18 studies), Escherichia coli infection (n=16 studies), lymphatic filariasis and cholera (n=9 apiece). However, the evidence on the safety and effectiveness of these reported TM interventions is limited, indicating that these data are rarely collected and/or shared within the peer-reviewed literature.

Conclusion: This review thus highlights that, whilst TMs are already being used and could offer more widely accessible interventions against emerging and endemic zoonoses and ectoparasites, there is an urgent need for rigorous clinical testing and validation of the safety and effectiveness of these interventions.

More information

Journal Article
Asaaga FA
Tomude ES
Rahman M
Shakeer I
Ghotge NS
Burthe SJ
Schäfer SM
Vanak AT
Purse BV
Hoti SL