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This study investigated the bacteriological and fungal evaluation of three commonly used herbal drugs sold in Calabar metropolis. Using standard microbiological analytical protocols, the total bacterial counts ranged from 7.3×103 to 1.2×107cfu/ml while fungal counts ranged from 6.0×103 to 1.1×107cfu/ml. The bacteria isolated includes Bacillus species, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus species, Serratia marcescens and Klebsiella pneumoniae with percentage occurrence of 100%, 66.7%, 66.7%, 66.7% 33.3%, 33.3%, 33.3%, respectively, while the fungal isolates included Fusarium sp, candida albican and Aspergillus niger with prevalence occurrence of 100%, 33.3%, and 33.3%, respectively. The bacterial and fungal isolates showed susceptibility to all the antibiotics except Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus that exhibited moderate resistance to ampicillin and cefoxitin, respectively. There is, therefore, an urgent need for implementation of routine evaluation of herbal medicines and infection control policies in Cross River state and Nigeria in general.
1.1 Background of the study
Traditional medicine (TM) is the sum total of knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not (WHO, 2000). TM could be use in the maintenance of health as well as in prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illnesses (WHO, 2000). On the other hand, herbal medicines are plant-derived materials or preparations with therapeutic or other human health benefits, which contain either raw or processed ingredients from one or more plants. In some traditions, materials of inorganic or animal origin may also be present (WHO, 2000). Herbs include leaves, stems, flowers, fruits, seeds, roots, rhizomes and barks. The use of herbs for treating various diseases predates human history and forms the origin of most of the modern medicine. Long before the advent of modern medicine, herbs were the mainstream remedies for nearly all ailments (Barakat et al., 2013)
In the last decade, there has been a global upsurge in the use of traditional medicine (TM) and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in both developed and developing countries. Today, therefore, certain forms of traditional, complementary and alternative medicines play an increasingly important role in health care and health sector reform globally. Hence, the safety and efficacy, as well as the quality control of traditional medicine and complementary and alternative medicines have become important concerns for both health authorities and the public. Man to cure diseases and heal injuries since time immemorial (Perumalsamy and Ignaglumuthu 2000) has used plants and herbs. In recent years, interest has been renewed in the use of medicinal plants, and scientific studies are designed to explain some of the curative phenomena associated with traditional herbal remedies. Most drugs utilized by people all over the world are of plant origin (Mboto, 2009).
Due to its intrinsic qualities, unique and holistic approaches as well as its accessibility and affordability, herbal medicines continues to be the best alternative health care available for the majority of the global population, particularly for those in the rural areas of developing countries (Mwambazi, 1996).
The bioactive principles and mechanism of action in most herbal preparations are usually not clearly defined, and there could be possibilities of interaction with each other in solution. According to Ogbonnia et al (2010), the quality as well as the safety criteria for herbal drugs may be based on a clear scientific definition of the raw materials used for such preparation. As related by the World health Organization (WHO), herbal medicines are medications prepared from one or more herbs or plant parts (roots, stem back, seeds and or fruits).
These preparations are often used in different forms including chewing sticks, herbal pastes, powders, herbal mixtures and suspensions and may carry a large number of microbes originating from soil usually adhering to various parts of herbs. Most of these herbal materials are prepared and sold under unhygienic conditions
(Oluyege et al., 2008).
1.2 Justification for the study
Several studies have reported the isolation of microbes especially in herbal materials that are prepared and sold under unhygienic conditions (Oluyege et al., 2008, Ngari et al., 2013). These microbes exist in these herbal preparations as either potential pathogens or contaminants. Commonly reported pathogens and contaminants that are associated with herbal medicine include; Salmonella, Escherichia coli, staphylococcus aureus, shigella species, fungi, viruses, protozoa, insects and other gram positive and gram negative strains of bacteria (Ngari et al., 2013). These organisms have been reported to pose serious health hazards and risk to consumers of these medicines as well as affect the quality of the products (Banerjee and Saker, 2003). In Nigeria, herbal medicines is becoming so popular and there is dearth of information in evaluation of microbial quality of these medicines especially in Cross River state.
1.3 Aims and objectives of the research.
This study is aimed at evaluating the bacterial and fungal qualities of three herbal medicines sold in Calabar metropolis, Cross River state Nigeria.
The specific objectives of this research were;
1. To determine the bacterial and fungal load present in these herbal medicines.
2. To identify and characterize bacteria and fungi associated with herbal medicines sold in Calabar metropolis, Cross River state Nigeria, and
3. To determine the antimicrobial susceptibility profile of isolated bacteria and fungi for the herbal drugs.