Sun, Jul 24, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Algae could aid in bird flu fight

BATTLING DISEASE Health officials said that extracts from algae could help immune systems fight the deadly avian flu virus, after testing the technique on rabbits


Scientists here in Taiwan have discovered that extracts from chlorella, or green algae, and plantlike flagellates known as cryptomonadales can be used to fight bird flu by preventing the immune system from overreacting to the avian flu virus, health officials announced yesterday.

Experiments were conducted upon rabbits at the National Health Research Institute (NHRI) under the Department of Health and it was found that after being given the extracts, rabbits affected by bird flu were able to survive the disease.

Researchers used a variety of algae for their research but found that chlorella and cryptomonadales grown in Taiwan had the best effects.

Although successful in their experiments with rabbits, they acknowledged that they have not tested the effects of the extracts on humans, because there have been no human cases of bird flu in Taiwan.

The researchers said they will look for partners in the food processing industry to produce the algae extracts in the form of "health food."

Su Yi-jen (蘇益仁), an NHRI director in charge of clinical research, said that both the World Health Organization and the disease control authorities of the US are trying to find herbs that contain phycocyanin and peroxisomal proliferatoractivated receptor, which could be used to control the activity of the virus.

He also said that these two elements are found in the algae family and can be extracted and produced as health food, and he claimed that if there is not enough medicine if and when a bird flu epidemic strikes, the algae extracts can be distributed as a substitute.

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