IDENTIFICATION AND EVALUATION OF IMMUNO-MODULATORY PROPERTIES OF PREBIOTICS EXTRACTED FROM VERNONIA AMYGDALINA
Prebiotics are non-digestible food substances that when consumed provide a beneficial physiological effect on the host, by selectively stimulating the favourable growth or activity of a limited number of indigenous bacteria. Most known prebiotics are complex carbohydrates commonly found in fruits, vegetables and plant products. Vernonia amygdalina, commonly called bitter leaf is widely consumed in Africa especially in Nigeria. The leaf extract has been reported to contain some prebiotic potential. This study was aimed at identifying and evaluating immuno-modulatory properties of prebiotics extracted from the leaf. The aqueous extract was separated into fractions by Liquid-liquid fractionation and the prebiotic compounds were identified through Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC).The evaluation of immuno-modulatory effects was conducted by monitoring the effects of oral administration of the aqueous extract on the haematological and lipid profiles of Rattus norvegicus. The animals were distributed into six groups with six animals in each group. One group was designated control while the other five groups were administered different concentrations of the extract. The control group was administered distilled water and the other groups 50, 100, 200, 400 and 800 mg/kg of the extract respectively, twice daily for three weeks. Blood was collected through the orbital-plexus of the rats to evaluate the effect of the extract on CD4 cells, packed cell volume (PCV), white blood cell count (WBC), haemoglobin (Hb) levels and lipid profile. Five fractions designated E1 to E5, were obtained from the extract. Trhin Layer Chromatography analysis of these fractions revealed the presence of fructo-oligosaccharides namely D-fructose, D-arabinose, D-glucose, D-xylose, D-mannose and D-galactose suggesting that these are the prebiotic compounds of the plant extract. The aqueous extract of the plant showed a significant (p<0.05) increased effect on White blood cells (WBC), CD4 cells, High Density Lipid- Cholesterol (HDL-C) and Total Cholesterol (TC). There was significant (p<0.05) reduction on Low Density Lipid-Cholesterol (LDL-C) and no significant (p>0.05) increased effect on haemoglobin (Hb) and packed cell volume (PCV) levels. The results of this study show that Vernonia amygdalina leaf extracts contain fructo-oligosaccharides and other prebiotic compounds and can play important roles in the modulation of the immune system.