A clinico-pathological and biochemical study of the toxicity of callilepis laureola (impila)
Bhoola, Keshavlal Daya Narotam.
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This study was undertaken as a result of the occurrence of a large number of deaths among the local Black population from the use of herbal medicines prepared from the rootstock of Callilepis laureola known to the Zulus as impila. The salient clinico-pathological features in these cases were hypoglycaemia, centrilobular zonal liver necrosis and acute renal tubular necrosis. The purpose of this study was to investigate fully the clinical, biochemical and pathological aspects of the toxicity produced by Callilepis laureola (impila). The first part of the investigation consisted of an assessment of all cases of death due to acute liver necrosis diagnosed by necropsy at King Edward VIII Hospital, Durban. A review of clinical and necropsy records of 21687 consecutive post-mortems performed on Black patients during a 20 year period showed that acute liver necrosis was the major contributing cause of death in 447 patients. In 263 cases the hepatic lesion was centri lobular zonal necrosis with associated acute tubular necrosis (Group A); while in 184 cases the I iver necrosis was of the massive or submassive type (Group B). A comparative assessment of these two groups as regards necropsy prevalence, age and sex distribution and the clinical, biochemical and pathological findings was undertaken. This study shows that the combination of hypoglycaemia, centri lobular zonal liver necrosis and acute renal tubular necrosis due to Callilepis laureola (impila) poisoning is a distinct clinico-pathological entity and differentiates this group from cases of acute massive and submassive liver necrosis resulting in most cases from fulminant viral hepatitis. In the search for the toxic components of the root of Callilepsis laureola several compounds were isolated. These were atractyloside, carboxyatractyloside, two thymol related oils and a carbohydrate. The thymol related oils as well as the carbohydrate were found to be non-toxic in laboratory rats. The crude methanol extract of the root of Callilepsis laureola, when injected intraperitoneally into laboratory rats, produced centrilobular zonal liver necrosis and acute renal tubular necrosis, the lesions identical to those seen in patients who had died after intake of impila prescribed by witchdoctors and other dispensers of herbal medicines. On the other hand intraperitoneal injections of the purified compound atractyloside caused acute renal tubular necrosis and hypoglycaemia in laboratory rats but failed to produce liver necrosis. Carboxyatractyloside also failed to cause liver necrosis. This indicated that there may be at least two toxins contained in the rootstock of Callilepsis laureola, one causing the liver lesion and the other (atractyloside) causing nephrotoxicity and hypoglycaemia. Repeated attempts at isolating the hepatotoxin have failed; the liver toxin or toxins being lost during the process of extraction and purification. Identification of the hepatotoxin awaits further investigation. It is possible that the liver necrosis may be caused by a metabolite or that it may be a synergistic effect of two or more compounds.