By Will Koulouris
SYDNEY, June 2 (Xinhua) -- A team of researchers in Australia Friday announced the discovery of a native plant that has the capability to stop the Zika virus in its tracks.
The lead researcher on the project, Dr Trudi Collet, senior lecturer in pharmacy at the Queensland University of Technology told Xinhua on Friday that they may have discovered a way to stop the virus, which causes birth defects in children.
"The research is in the early stages, but we are aiming to ultimately synthesise the compounds in question and turn our attention to preclinical testing," Collet said.
Due to the potential for commercialization, the plant itself is a closely guarded secret, but Collet said that there are many plants around the world that share these properties.
"There's so many plant species out there, not just in Australia but around the world that have anti-microbial properties, and also anti-viral," Collet said.
"It wasn't the only plant that we selected, or that we tested, but this plant is the only one that was effective in killing the virus." she added.
Collet, also the head of the Indigenous Medicines Group in Australia, said that the plants that were used are ones that Indigenous and many other traditional cultures, such as the Chinese and North American Indians, have used to treat illness in the past.
"It's also exciting because of the implications of this work for other viruses. Zika, dengue, West Nile, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever are all from the same family of viruses -- flaviviridae." Collet said.
The research team led by Collet hopes that their work over the next three to five months will allow them to unlock the secrets to synthesising the compounds, allowing them to test the curative properties of the plant on other viruses.
According to Collet, the team chose to tackle the Zika virus first, as it is such an enormous healthcare problem in many developing regions around the world.