Botanical Extract Found to Completely Inhibit the Bird Flu Virus (H5N1)

HONG KONG -- PRB Pharmaceuticals and Lees Pharmaceuticals announced today the discovery that PRBs patent-pending botanical extract, V38-AMF-1, completely inhibits bird flu (H5N1) and Fujian Flu (H3N2) infections in vitro. The results come from the second arm of a multi-center, anti-viral project jointly sponsored by PRB Pharmaceuticals and Lees Pharmaceuticals. In the first arm of the project, researchers led by Dr. John Tam at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, found V38-AMF-1 to be effective against a variety of pathogens including SARS CoV, the virus responsible for causing severe acute respiratory syndrome.

We are extremely excited about this important and timely discovery, says Dr. Charles Hensley, co-chairman and co-CEO of PRB Pharmaceuticals. Since bird flu first emerged, researchers around the world have been searching for a safe compound that can inhibit the bird flu virus (H5N1). Our method of utilizing botanical sources for antimicrobial solutions is starting to pay off. It is really a commonsense approach, as plants have developed powerful anti-viral strategies over millions of years of co-evolution with viruses. This year, Asia experienced the largest outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in history and the recent outbreaks in Thailand and Vietnam have raised new concerns of an impending human influenza pandemic. It is just a matter of time before a variant capable of causing human-to-human transmission emerges and is likely to be a result of co-infection and gene swapping between H5N1 and the human influenza strain H3N2. Its really a disaster waiting to happen.

The first line of defense against a human influenza pandemic involving bird flu is to keep the avian stocks healthy, commented Hensley. To address this objective, we developed Flustat, a V38-AMF-1 based agricultural product to prevent and treat bird flu infections in chickens. Flustat comes as a powder that is added to drinking water of the chickens. We have already demonstrated that Flustat protects chicken embryos from H5N1 infection. We will begin testing Flustat on poultry stocks in the fall of 2004 with the goal of supplying poultry farms by the first quarter of 2005.

V38-AMF-1 is the primary active ingredient of PRBs over-the-counter influenza medication, Vira 38. Vira 38 was launched into the Hong Kong market by Lees Pharmaceuticals last winter and is currently selling over-the-counter.

Vira 38 has already shown to be a very effective treatment for influenza illness in humans and we are optimistic that Vira 38 will be an effective medication for the prevention and treatment of bird flu, says Dr. Benjamin Li, CEO of Lees Pharmaceuticals. A large-scale influenza human clinical trial is underway at the Prince of Wales hospital in Hong Kong and we are planning to stockpile Vira 38 for the upcoming flu season and in the event bird flu returns to Hong Kong.

Hensley noted that neither company would provide more specific scientific details on this study until a scientific manuscript had been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Source: PRB Pharmaceuticals; Lees Pharmaceuticals

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