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Saturday, 3 June, 2000, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
New hope for mushroom medicine
Fungi
Some mushrooms have medicinal properties
Compounds found in mushrooms could help to treat diseases like hepatitis C and HIV, claim scientists attending an international conference.

Scientists at the Second Annual Congress on Mushroom Nutrition at Middlesex University believe some species could be used to relieve the symptoms of certain diseases caused by viruses.

Mushrooms have been used in traditional herbal medicines in China and Japan for thousands of years, and Asian mushrooms are commonly used for pain relief and in treating diseases like arthritis.

Certain mushrooms also boost the immune system, and are given to transplant patients to reduce the chances of organ rejection - but little is known about the active ingredients in the fungi and how they work.

Early promise

Scientists attending the conference in England are looking at ways of combating extreme tiredness caused by viral infections, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, hepatitis C and even HIV.



I think in terms of treatment for viral infections they have great potential

Dr John Wilkinson
Viral infections are very difficult to treat, but Dr John Wilkinson from Middlesex University, who is chairing the conference, says mushrooms could open new possibilities for treatment.

"A lot of the components that are found in mushrooms and plants, many of them are anti-viral," said Dr Wilkinson.

"You've not just got one anti-viral compound, but you've actually got a whole compliment that are all battling against viruses at the same time.

"So I think in terms of treatment for viral infections they have great potential, because you are bombarding the organism with many different active molecules."

At the moment, there is very little clinical evidence to statistically prove that mushrooms could be used in this way but early studies are promising.

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