Kenya’s leading research institute has begun exploring efficacy of one of its herbal and traditional medicines likely to treat Covid-19. Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) has identified Zedupex, an in-house herbal medicine used in the treatment of genital herpes -- a common viral disease that causes sores on the mouth and genitals.

The drug licensed by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board in 2015 was developed by Kenyan scientists from medicinal trees. It is available in powder form packed in 250-gramme containers and TMR5 a cream applied to the genitals. The prescription is a teaspoonful of powder in a cup of boiled water.

According to a presentation made by Kemri Director-General Yeri Kombe to the National Assembly Health Committee, Kemri has been approved by the government as the reference centre for testing efficacy of potential Traditional Medicines/Drugs for Covid-19.

“Kemri has commenced exploring efficacy of its in-house product (Zedupex) and other natural products against Covid-19,” Prof Kombe said.

It took Dr Festus Tolo, Deputy Director at the institute's Natural Products Research and Drug Development Research Programme, and other two scientists 10 years to develop the product.

Zedupex is sold in small-scale through the institute's production department. The researchers will be working in the laboratory to test the activity and safety of the compound on Covid-19 treatment. The trials are being carried out at Kemri's laboratory. The drug has not been administered to any coronavirus patient.

But as Kenya tries to explore the treatment of the virus with traditional medicines, the African Union said it will now start testing the controversial herbal remedy for Covid-19 from Madagascar.

At least five African countries continue to receive supplies of the remedy despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) warning about its use.

The WHO announced on Tuesday evening that it held a virtual meeting with 70 traditional medicine experts from African countries on the role of traditional medicine in Covid-19 response.


The experts “unanimously agreed that clinical trials must be conducted for all medicines in the region, without exception”. Madagascar’s herbal remedy is based on the artemisia annual plant, which has antimalarial properties and was developed by the state-run Malagasy Institute of Applied Research.

On Wednesday, AU Commission Deputy Chairperson Kwesi Quartey announced that the organisation will collaborate with Madagascar’s health ministry to test the efficacy of the treatment.

South Africa, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Central African Republic, Congo and Equatorial Guinea had received their consignments of the herbal remedy.