Yuletide trees may help fight bird flu

January 9, 2006

A Canadian drug maker has found a new use for discarded Christmas trees -- fighting bird flu in humans.

Biolyse Pharma Corp., in St. Catharines, Ontario, extracts shikimic acid from the pine, spruce and fir needles. The chemical is a main ingredient in the production of the flu drug oseltamivir, or Tamiflu, the Buffalo (N.Y.) News reported Sunday.

Tamiflu is being stockpiled by many countries in the event the bird flu mutates and can be transmitted from human to human.

The chemical is extracted mostly from the star anise tree in China, but the supply is limited -- and the price has risen from $45 a kilogram to $600 over the past year, said John Fulton, a vice president with Biolyse.

"What makes (Biolyse's) process more viable is the fact that the particular species of pine and spruce and fir that we are working with are far more abundant than the seedlings of star anise," Fulton said.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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