Bird flu battled by cod fish

16-01-2007 | |

An Icelandic company claims that an enzyme it has found in cod could help scientists to find a drug to fight the avian flu.

Zymetech, founded in 1996 by scientists from the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, concentrates on making pharmaceuticals and cosmetics developed from enzymes found in fish. One of the company’s medical products is Penzim, a compound first identified in the digestive system of cod which in the past has been shown to help relieve a variety of conditions including skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis. Zymetech’s managing director Jón Bragi Bjarnason, said that a formulation of Penzim had been shown to destroy 99% of H5N1 avian flu virus cells in an experimental culture within five minutes.
The study was carried out by Retroscreen Virology, an independent research group based at the Centre for Infectious Diseases at Bart’s and the London Queen Mary’s School of Medicine & Dentistry in London.
“The results against the avian flu virus look very promising,” said Professor Bjarnason, who teaches biochemistry at the University of Iceland. He said he believed the enzyme could be used to help to develop an alternative to Roche’s anti-flu drug Tamiflu and other rival products. Rather than a tablet, he said the enzyme could also be developed into a spray for use as a topical anti-flu disinfectant. The report by Retroscreen Virology said such a product “would be ideal for use in poultry farms or quarantine units to prevent species-to-species transmission of the virus. In addition, healthcare workers, research scientists and those handling infected animals would benefit.”
Zymetech is currently seeking to raise up to $30 million to help further develop Penzim as a pharmaceutical product and conduct initial clinical trials.

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