Monday, October 31, 2005

Star Anise - the world's last hope against bird flu?

Seemingly star anise, from which the drug Tamiflu is made, may be the only defense the world currently has against an avian flu pandemic.

The Independent, claims the herb star anise is the world's only weapon against the deadly disease bird flu. It says a shortage of the herb means Britain cannot produce enough of the drug Tamiflu to protect the public. Only star anise grown in the four provinces of China is suitable for manufacture into Tamiflu and 90 per cent of the harvest is already used by Roche.

A derivative of star anise, shikimic acid, is used in production of the drug Tamiflu (Oseltamivir Phosphate), which is said to reduce the severity of avian flu. The star anise from which Tamiflu is made is only grown in four provinces in China and "huge quantities" of its seeds are needed, according to the Swiss pharmaceutical manufacturer Roche. It is harvested for this purpose between March and May, purified and the shikimic acid extracted at the start of a 10-stage manufacturing process, which takes a year.

The Guardian says veterinary experts want the government to stockpile the vaccine to combat the disease's spread.

The Daily Telegraph says the Tories and Liberal Democrats claim stocks should have been amassed sooner.

I have got a jar on my spice shelf if anyone needs it.

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