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Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter

Extract used in 1918 pandemic may have antiviral properties, scientists say,,,,

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- A plant with a particularly malodorous sap has components that show great efficacy in killing off the H1N1 swine flu virus, Chinese scientists report.

The plant, Ferula assa-foetida, grows throughout Iran, Afghanistan and mainland China, and is commonly dubbed "Dung of the Devil" due to its ill-smelling sap. But the researchers note that the plant was used in China against the influenza virus during the great 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, which is thought to have killed tens of millions worldwide. But until now no one has confirmed that Ferula assa-foetida has natural antiviral properties, according to a news release from the American Chemical Society.

The report appears in the Sept. 25 issue of the Journal of Natural Products.

In their laboratory experiments, researchers Fang-Rong Chang, Yang-Chang Wu and colleagues identified a group of chemicals in the plant's extracts that appear to have a stronger potency against H1N1 flu than a prescription antiviral medication already in use against the flu. They write that these compounds "may serve as promising lead components for new drug development against influenza A (H1N1) viral infection."

More information

Find out more about the H1N1 virus at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-- E.J. Mundell

SOURCE: American Chemical Society, news release, Sept. 9, 2009

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