Scientists from Australia, Europe and the US have found that a Chinese herb, which has been used to treat snakebites and boils for centuries, has the potential to fight HIV/AIDS.
The researchers say that an Asian violet known as Viola yedoensis contains tiny proteins that appear to kill off infected cells. Such anti-HIV and anti-bacterial qualities, say the researchers, make the plant a target for new drug therapies to treat the HIV virus.
While presenting their findings at COMBIO 2007, a meeting of biochemistry and molecular biology specialists in Sydney, researchers at the University of Queensland said that the plant contains small proteins called cyclotides that might act as defensive agents.
The researchers tested the ability of the cyclotides by applying them to two sets of cellsone infected with HIV and the other virus-free. Their aim was to see how many of the cells infected with HIV were destroyed after the application of the cyclotides.
"The results were encouraging. The actions of the cyclotides are yet not fully understood and the research is at a very early stage," said new.com.au quoted Professor David Craik from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland as saying.
''(But) it may be that we can use the lessons of nature to create synthetic drug designs to help people with the virus,'' he added.
Researchers at the National Cancer Institute in the US and the Division of Pharmacology at Uppsala University in Sweden also collaborated on the study.