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Easter Island fungus hope for kidney patients
Easter Island
Fungus in soil near these Easter Island statues could help kidney patients
A drug made from a fungus found on Easter Island in the Pacific could reduce kidney transplant rejection by almost two thirds.

Clinical trials on Rapamycin have also found it has fewer side effects than other anti-rejection drugs.

Doctors suggest it might prove to be the first major transplant advance for 15 years.

The fungus was discovered in the soil on the island. The drug extracted from the organism is now being tested on transplant patients around the world.

The results show it can halve the rate of rejection of new kidneys. Only 11% of kidney transplant patients who received the drug suffered rejection problems compared to 29% who received the standard drug treatment.

Less toxic

The drug would also appear to be less toxic than more conventional treatments.

Dr Ken Smith
Dr Ken Smith says side effects are a major concern in transplants
"Now that renal transplantation has proved a very effective treatment, the major clinical problems are down to the side effects of drugs. That is what we are hoping to avoid," says Dr Ken Smith, a consultant kidney physician at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Kidney dialysis is the temporary solution for the 5,000 patients waiting for transplants in the UK.

If fewer organs were rejected it could help cut that waiting list.

Hope

Andrew Collins has already had one failed transplant.

Andrew Collins
Kidney patient Andrew Collins: hope for the future
"It gives me good hope for the future that we will get away from the horrible side effects that we suffer at the moment, and will enable us to get on with our lives and lead normal lives."

The drug could also be used in other types of organ transplants and even for treating cancer.

Dr Neville Jamieson, consultant transplant surgeon, is positive about other applications.

He said: "The drug Rapamycin may have some properties which allow it slow down tumour growth and may allow us to cure some patients we previously could not operate on."

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