Research Article - (2012) Volume 3, Issue 9

Anti-Helminthic Properties of Some Nigerian Medicinal Plants on Selected Intestinal Worms in Children (Age 5-13) in Ogurugu, South East Nigeria

Cletus Anes Ukwubile*
Department of Pharmacognosy and Drug Development, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria
*Corresponding Author: Cletus Anes Ukwubile, Department of Pharmacognosy and Drug Development, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria Email:


Helminths parasites activity in children in Nigerian rural areas had caused a lot of deficiencies in the children from social to general well being of the body. The aim of this study is to investigate the anti-helminthic activity of Allium sativum, Zingiber officinale, Cucurbita mexicana, Annona senegalensis, Ficus religiosa, Artemisia brevifolia, Calotropis procera, Pycnanthus angolensis , Nicotiana tabacum and Vernonia amygdalina on these worms: Ascaris lumbricoides, Strongyloides stercularis, Giardia intestinalis, Ancylostoma duodenale, Entamoeba histolystica, Enterobis vermicularis, Taenia saginata, Trichinella spp., Necator americanus and Diphyllobothrium latum. Aqueous (water) and ethanol extracts of leaves, stem bark and roots of the plants of concentration 20, 25, 50 and 100 mg/ml were used to test the worms for plant potency while piperazine citrate was used as control. Paralysis time and death were determined within 4 hours in the petri dish while unrestrained movements by the worms before and after extracts administration were recorded on a slow moving kymograph drum using the organ bath method. Time of paralysis and time of death were significantly reduced at all concentrations compared to the vehicle treated group (P ≤ 0.05). The study showed that the extracts exhibited anti-helminthic activities on the intestinal worms, and can be used as an oral medication for these worms infestation in children.

Keywords: Aqueous extract; Anti-helminthic activity; Intestinal worm; Ogurugu community; Children


Helminths are recognized as a major constraint to livestock production as well as blood loss in humans throughout the tropics [1,2]. They achieve these characteristics because majority of them live as pure obligate parasite in humans and other livestock of economic importance. These worms are grouped into two major phyla namely phylum Platyhelminthes (flatworms) and phylum Nematoda (roundworms) and they have developed various adaptive structures to survive in their hosts [3].

Plants extracts have been used since time immemorial for managing various diseases in traditional medicine especially in Africa and other developing worlds. Plants prescription has found that it’s relevant as anti-cancer, anti-malarial, anti-coagulant, anti-histamine, antibiotic, food supplements, etc. However, the rapid spread of intestinal worm induced sickness in the rural populace in Nigeria, which had resulted into many deaths and physical impairments among children from age five to thirteen years, and negligence of orthodox medications by the these rural dwellers, justifies why this research was carried out.

The present research was therefore designed to scientifically validate some widely used ethno botanicals for their anti-helminthic activity in children of ages 5 to 13 years in Ogurugu Community, South Eastern Nigeria.

Materials and Methods

Collection of plant material

The plant material (Table 1) based on the information collected from ethno-medicinal survey was selected and procured from the local market/field and got authenticated from an expert in the Department of Biological Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. The criterion for the selection of plants was seasonal availability of plants and previous work done on them i.e. if a plant is tested previously for anthelmintic activity.

Plant species Plant family Part/s used
Allium sativumL. Amaryllidaceae Leaves
Zingiber officinaleRos. Zingiberaceae Rhizome
Cucurbita mexicana L. Cucurbitaceae Leaves
Annona senegalensisPers. Annonaceae whole plant
Ficus religiosaL. Moraceae Leaves, roots
Artemisia brevifoliaWall. Asteraceae Whole plant
Calotropis procera At. Asclepiadaceae Leaves
Pycnanthus angolensis Wb. Myristicaceae Whole plant
Nicotiana tabacumL. Solanaceae Whole plant
Vernonia amygdalinaDe. Asteraceae Leaves
Note: Only few of the plants were represented in the results.

Table 1: Plants screened to evaluate anthelmintic activity.

Extract preparation

Plant material (in varying amount depending upon availability of plant) was dried under shade at a well ventilated place, cleaned of adulterants and ground to powdered form. The 10 plant materials were soaked in sufficient amount of 70% aqueous-methanol by cold maceration at room temperature for a total of 3 days. After that the filtrate was collected through a piece of porous cloth and filter paper and the plant materials re-soaked twice. The combined filtrate was concentrated in a rotary evaporator at 40°C under reduced pressure to yield thick and dark coloured crude extracts. These extracts were stored at -4°C until use and dissolved in distilled water on the day of the experiments to prepare stock solution and different dilutions for the purpose of evaluating pharmacological activity.

In vitro antihelminthic activity of extracts

Adult motility assay: Mature Ascaris lumbricoides from clinical isolates were used to determine the effect of Crude Aqueous Methanol Extracts (CAME) by method described previously by Iqbal et al. [4]. Briefly, the female mature worms were collected from freshly excreted faeces. The worms were washed and finally suspended in Phosphate Buffer Saline (PBS). A minimum of ten worms were exposed in three replicates to each of the following treatments in separate petri dishes at room temperature (25-30°C): 1) CAME at the rate of 100, 50, 25, 12.5, 6.25, 3.12, 1.56, 0.78, 0.39 and 0.19 mg ml-1, 2) Abendazole 0.5 mg mL-1, 3) Phosphate Buffer Saline (PBS). The inhibition of motility and/ or mortality of the worms kept in the above treatments were used as the criterion for anthelmintic activity. The motility was observed after 0, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 12 hour intervals. Finally, the treated worms were kept for 30 minutes in the lukewarm fresh PBS to observe the revival of motility. The number of dead and survived worms was recorded for each treatment.

Egg hatch test (EHT)

Egg recovery: Adult female Ascaris lumbricoides were collected after giving the longitudinal incision along the greater curvature of abomasums of naturally infected sheep [5]. The worms present in excreta or attached to the surface of guts were picked manually using forceps and placed in a bottle containing cool (4°C) PBS (pH 7.3) and later were triturated in pestle and mortar. The suspension was filtered through sieves of different sizes based on the nematode species into a bowl. Filtrate was centrifuged in Clayton Lane tubes for 2 minutes at 300x g and supernatant was discarded. Tubes were agitated to loosen the sediment and then saturated sodium chloride solution was added until a meniscus formed above the tube. A cover slip was then placed and sample re-centrifuged for 5 minutes at 130 rpm [6]. Cover slip was plucked off carefully from tubes and eggs were washed off into a conical glass centrifuge tube. Tube was filled with water and centrifuged for 2 minutes at 300 rpm. Supernatant was decanted and eggs were resuspended in water. The eggs were then washed thrice in distilled water and adjusted to a 500 eggs mL-1 using the McMaster technique [7].

Test procedure: Egg hatch test was conducted by the method described by Coles et al. [8]. Egg suspension of (0.2 ml; 100 eggs) was distributed in a 24 well multi-well plate (Flow Laboratories) and mixed with the same volume of different concentrations (0.25 to 8 mg mL-1) of plant extracts (i.e., CAME) [8]. The positive control wells received different concentrations (0.09 to 3.0 μm mL-1) of Abendazole (Systemax-ICI Pakistan, Ltd., 2.265%, w/v) in place of plant extracts while negative control wells contained the diluents and the egg solution. The eggs were incubated in this mixture at 27°C. After 48 hours, two drops of Lughole’s iodine solution was added to stop the 37 eggs from hatching [9]. All the eggs (dead and embryonated) and hatched larvae in each well were counted. There were three replicates for each treatment and control.

In vivo antihelminthic activity of extracts

Faecal egg count reduction test (FECR): Study of animals: A total 120 local sheep of both sexes (≤1 year of age) weighing 18-25 kg having naturally acquired mixed parasitic infections of gastrointestinal nematodes were selected from Mr Ucheonwu’s Farm Ogurugu. Infection was confirmed before the beginning of study by faecal examination of the animals, by the standard parasitological procedures [7]. The animals having higher than 500 eggs per gram of faeces were included in the experiment [10]. After selection of the animals, they were washed with an appropriate ecto-parasiticide. The animals were vaccinated against different bacterial/viral disease according to the routine. The sheep were kept on wood shaving and fed with fresh grass/ fodder, concentrate (Anmol wanda®) and water ad libitum.

Treatment and follow-up procedures: Prior to the treatment, faecal samples were obtained by rectum from each animal, at least three times at an interval of three days. On each occasion, the number of eggs in the faeces according to the genus was determined by larval culture and identification was done by morphological characteristics described by MAFF [11] and Thienpont et al. [12]. The animals selected were suffering from mixed gastrointestinal nematodes species including mainly Ascaris lumbricoides, Ancylostoma duodenale, Strongyloides stercularis, Necator americanus and Enterobis vermicularis. On day zero, the sheep were allocated to eight groups of 4 animals each, according to the complete randomized design, taking into consideration their live weight [3]. These 38 groups were assigned different treatments as single dose for each plant as given below:

Group 1: Untreated control.

Group 2: Levamisole HCl (Nilverm® 1.5%, w/v; NIPRD Abuja, Animal Health Division) at 7.5 mg kg-1 Body Weight (BW), served as treated control.

Group 3: Crude Powder (CP) at 1 g kg-1BW.

Group 4: CP at 4 g kg-1BW.

Group 5: CP at 8 g kg-1BW.

Group 6: CAME at equivalent dose rate 1 g kg-1BW of CP.

Group 7: CAME at the equivalent dose rate 4 g kg-1BW of CP.

Group 8: CAME at the equivalent dose rate 8 g kg-1BW of CP.

Measurements: Observation of clinical signs and/or death was undertaken daily. The body weight of the sheep was recorded weekly. Faecal egg counts per gram of faeces (EPG) were performed on each animal on days 0, 3, 6, 9, 12 and 15 post-treatment (PT) and were evaluated for the presence of worm eggs by salt floatation technique [11]. The eggs were counted by the McMaster method [7]. Egg Count percent Reduction (ECR) was calculated using the following formula:

ECR (%)={(pre-treatment EPG–post-treatment EPG)/pre-treatment EPG}×100

Statistical analysis

The data from adult motility assay and in vivo experiments were statistically analysed using SAS software [13]. The results were expressed as mean ± standard error of mean (± SE).

Results and Discussion

The plants demonstrated a very good potency on the all the selected worms (Table 1). Result shows that the higher concentration of the extracts produced paralytic effect much earlier and the time to death was shorter (Table 2). All the extracts and its fractions have shown significant antihelminthic activity among which aqueous extracts shows more prominent activity comparable to the standard anthelmintic drug, albendazole.

Test substance Concentration (mg/ml) Time Taken for Paralysis(P) and death ( D) (In minutes)
Ascaris lumbricoides
Cucurbita mexicana P D
Aqueous extract 25 18.32 ± 0.58* 36.3 ± 0.89*
Aqueous extract 50 11.66 ± 0.63* 29.23 ± 0.58*
Aqueous extract 100 8.33 ± 0. 47** 27.15 ± 1.73*
Albendazole 20 6.12 ± 0.55*** 7.66 ± 0.33***
Vehicle - - -
Annona senegalensis
Aqueous extract 25 - -
Aqueous extract 50 - -
Aqueous extract 100 - -
Albendazole 20 6.12 ± 0.55*** 7.66 ± 0.33***
Vehicle - - -
Artemisia brevifolia
Aqueous extract 25 24.3 ± 0.33* 49.7 ± 2.02*
Aqueous extract 50 5.77 ± 0.58*** 7.7 ± 0.32***
Aqueous extract 100 3.5 ± 0.41*** 4.3 ± 0.72***
Albendazole 20 6.12 ± 0.55*** 7.66 ± 0.33***
Vehicle - - -
Aqueous extract 25 18.32 ± 0.58* 36.3 ± 0.89*
Aqueous extract 50 11.66 ± 0.63* 29.23 ± 0.58*
Aqueous extract 100 8.33 ± 0. 47** 27.15 ± 1.73*
Albendazole 20 6.12 ± 0.55*** 7.66 ± 0.33***
Vehicle - - -
Zingiber officinale
Aqueous extract 25 - -
Aqueous extract 50 - -
Aqueous extract 100 - -
Albendazole 20 6.12 ± 0.55*** 7.66 ± 0.33***
Vehicle - - -
Calotropis procera
Aqueous extract 25 24.3 ± 0.33* 49.7 ± 2.02*
Aqueous extract 50 5.77 ± 0.58*** 7.7 ± 0.32***
Aqueous extract 100 3.5 ± 0.41*** 4.3 ± 0.72***
Albendazole 20 6.12 ± 0.55*** 7.66 ± 0.33***
Vehicle - - -
Only the most prevalent worms were represented, ٭Significant different; p ≤ 0.05, **p ≤ 0.01 and ***p ≤ 0.001 students t-test.

Table 2: Anthelmintic activities of some selected plants on some intestinal worms.

The plant inhibiting egg hatching (that is most potent) based on LC50 was Artemisia brevifolia (2.13 μg mL-1) followed in descending order of activity by Calotropis procera (2.41 μg mL-1). The results suggest that all the ten plants have potential to inhibit egg hatching by the worms, indicating ovicidal activity by all the plants (Figure 1), and this was in support of the work by Sofowora [14], when he reported that ethno-medicinal prescription of plant for eradication of worms, had achieved great success with almost 63% of tropical plants showing anthelmintic activity.


Figure 1: In vitro anthelmintic activity of some of the plants. Note: AC (Anthelmintic activities), AS (Allium sativum) and AV (Artemisia brevifolia)


The five plants Annona senegalensis, Cucurbita mexicana, Calotropis procera, Allium sativim and Artemisia brevifolia merit further consideration for the phytotherapy of helminthiasis as they showed good anthelmintic activities in dose dependent manner. Further bioguided isolation of compounds from these five plants is, however, required to confirm which specific compounds are responsible for the observed anthelmintic activity. The observation that some of the extracts were inactive in vitro does not mean that they do not have activity on other cell types. Unless the concentration of pure active principle(s) in crude extracts is stated, care should be taken by the general population of Ogurugu (Nigeria) in oral application of crude extracts, because they are known to be converted to toxic metabolites by liver cells and subsequently cause liver cirrhosis.


I am highly thankful to Prof. I.H. Nock of the Department of Biological Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria for his assistant in the laboratory procedures.


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Citation: Ukwubile CA (2012) Anti-Helminthic Properties of Some Nigerian Medicinal Plants on Selected Intestinal Worms in Children (Age 5-13) in Ogurugu, South East Nigeria. J Bacteriol Parasitol 3:159.

Copyright: © 2012 Ukwubile CA. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.