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Native Australian plants could be key to Zika cure

IANS | Canberra |

A team of researchers in Australia on Friday announced the discovery of a native plant that has the capability to cure Zika virus.

The lead researcher on the project, Trudi Collet, senior lecturer in pharmacy at the Queensland University of Technology, told Xinhua news agency that they may have discovered a way to stop the virus, which causes birth defects in children.

"The research is in the early stages, but we are aiming to ultimately synthesise the compounds in question and turn our attention to preclinical testing," Collet said.

Due to the potential for commercialization, the plant itself is a closely guarded secret, but Collet said there were many plants around the world that share these properties.

Collet, also the head of the Indigenous Medicines Group in Australia, said the plants that were used are ones that indigenous and many other traditional cultures, such as the Chinese and North American Indians, have used to treat illness in the past.

"It's also exciting because of the implications of this work for other viruses. Zika, dengue, West Nile, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever are all from the same family of viruses — flaviviridae." Collet said.

The research team hopes that their work over the next three to five months will allow them to unlock the secrets to synthesising the compounds, allowing them to test the curative properties of the plant on other viruses.

According to Collet, the team chose to tackle the Zika virus first as it is such an enormous healthcare problem in many developing regions around the world.