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Turmeric spices up virus study
Date:8/16/2012

Fairfax, Va.--The popular spice turmeric packs more than just flavor it shows promise in fighting devastating viruses, Mason researchers recently discovered.

Curcumin, found in turmeric, stopped the potentially deadly Rift Valley Fever virus from multiplying in infected cells, says Aarthi Narayanan, lead investigator on the new study and a research assistant professor with Mason's National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases.

Mosquito-borne Rift Valley Fever virus (RVF) is an acute, fever-causing virus that affects domestic animals such as cattle, sheep and goats, as well as humans. The research appears this month in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

"Growing up in India, I was given turmeric all the time," says Narayanan, who has spent the past 18 months working on the project. "Every time my son has a throat infection, I give (turmeric) to him."

There's more work to do before curcumin-based pharmaceuticals become commonplace, Narayanan emphasizes. She plans to test 10 different versions of curcumin to determine which one works the best. She also intends to apply the research to other viruses, including HIV.

Narayanan has long wanted to explore the infection-fighting properties of turmeric, in particular its key component, curcumin. "It is often not taken seriously because it's a spice," she says.

But science is transforming the spice from folk medicine to one that could help a patient's body fight off a virus because it can prevent the virus from taking over healthy cells. These "broad-spectrum inhibitors" work by defeating a wide array of viruses.

"Curcumin is, by its very nature, broad spectrum," Narayanan says. "However, in the published article, we provide evidence that curcumin may interfere with how the virus manipulates the human cell to stop the cell from responding to the infection."

Kylene Kehn-Hall, a co-investigator on the study, adds, "We are very exc
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Contact: Michele McDonald
mmcdon15@gmu.edu
703-993-8781
George Mason University
Source:Eurekalert

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