compound Q A substance (also called GLQ223) whose active ingredient is a protein called tri-cosanthin, extracted from the root tuber of a Chinese cucumber, Trichosanthes kirilowii. It is used in China to induce abortions and to treat ectopic pregnancy, hydatidiform moles, and a type of cancer, choriocarcinoma. In China there are three different grades of trichosanthin prepared for injection: crude extract, purified extract, and crystallized, the highest purity. only the crystallized form can be used safely; the others cause severe side effects.
In late 1988 and early 1989 compound Q generated enormous public and scientific interest, and was touted as an important treatment to watch. In April 1989 there was widespread publicity about a severe adverse reaction to an injected bogus "compound Q," apparently homemade from roots obtained from a health food store. It was also reported that some health food stores were exploiting the situation by promoting a dried root or extract that, they suggested, contained compound Q. The public was warned that the root also contains lectins, which are poisonous when injected (they cause blood cells to clump together, potentially causing heart attacks or strokes). Moreover, compound Q is almost certainly destroyed by drying, so the dried root available in health food stores does not contain the active ingredient anyway.
A potential benefit of compound Q is that tri-chosanthin, unlike other treatments, kills HIV-infected cells; thus it has the potential to reduce the total amount of infection and not just slow its spread. physicians and researchers continue to be concerned about toxicity, however. Two kinds have been found. One appears to be dose-related and the other seems to depend on the condition of the patient. Clearly not enough is known to determine the most beneficial use of this substance, or to predict its value as a treatment.
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