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Chinese plant may weed out swine flu

Category: Infectious Diseases

A plant most commonly distinguished by its dreadful stench may soon be known as an ally to humans against the swine flu virus, researchers report.

The report, which appears in the September 25 issue of the Journal of Natural Products, details the steps taken by Chinese scientists in testing the antiviral properties of the foul-smelling, Ferula assa-foetida. The plant, which grows in Iran, Afghanistan and mainland China, was used to combat the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic in China, which resulted in millions of fatalities worldwide.

Researchers Fang-Rong Chang and Yang-Chang Wu were able to determine that extracts of chemicals from the plant's roots appear to have a stronger potency against swine flu than an antiviral prescription currently used against the sickness.

The scientists say that the study "determined that sesquiterpene coumarins from F. assa-foetida may serve as promising lead components for new drug development against influenza A (H1N1) viral infection."
The plant, which is nicknamed "Dung of the Devil" for its defining characteristic, can be cooked to add a taste similar to onions and garlic to food dishes.

According to the Centers of Disease Control, the National Influenza Immunization Program, which aims to combat the H1N1 strain of the flu virus, was first introduced in the U.S. in 1976.

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