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Blueberry leaves can halt hepatitis C virus

Washington: A chemical in blueberry leaves halts reproduction of the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which infects 200 million people worldwide and can eventually lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Currently, there is no vaccine for HCV, and though a combination drug regimen can clear HCV infection, this treatment is only about 60 percent effective and poses risks of severe side effects. Hiroaki Kataoka and colleagues at the University of Miyazaki (U-M) in Japan believed that since HCV is localised in the liver and can take 20 years or more to develop into disease, a dietary supplement might help slow or stop disease progression. So they screened nearly 300 different agricultural products for potential compounds that suppress HCV replication and uncovered a strong candidate in the leaves of rabbit-eye blueberry (native to the southeastern US). They purified the compound and identified it as proanthocyandin (a polyphenol similar to the beneficial chemicals found in grapes and wine). Similar chemicals are found in many edible plants, suggesting it should be safe as a dietary supplement. Researchers now hope to explore the detailed mechanisms of how this chemical stops HCV replication. These findings appeared in Friday's edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. (Agencies)



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