- Title: BRAZIL-DENGUE-SAFFRON Saffron could help combat dengue, says Brazilian study
- Date: 21st May 2015
- Summary: CLOSE-UP OF THE SCAN OF THE LARVA ON THE SCREEN
- Embargoed: 5th June 2015 13:00
- Location: Brazil
- Country: Brazil
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVAOVQPO3PURZ5WR01TR9AXC5GS
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Researchers in Brazil have found that an extract obtained from saffron could provide a natural method to limit the proliferation of the dengue-carrying Aedes Aegypti mosquito, as mega-city Sao Paulo battles an ongoing epidemic with at least 8,000 cases recorded this year.
The active compound in saffron, a spice derived from the saffron crocus flower of the Curcuma Longa plant, is curcumin, known for the distinctive yellow-orange colour it adds to food, particularly in Indian cooking.
Scientists at the Physics Institute at the University of Sao Paulo have found another use for the distinctive qualities of the compound, which functions as a photosensitizer and according to recent studies, can severely damage the development of dengue-carrying mosquitoes.
In the laboratory, larvae of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito are bred in water mixed with specially produced fusion of sugar and curcumin and exposed to different light sources.
In this environment the curcumin inside the young insect's body reacts with light and produces highly toxic molecules which erode the mosquito's digestive system from within.
"When it comes into contact with solar light, and in the presence of oxygen, this chemical substance encourages the production of other reactive forms of oxygen. These toxic forms of oxygen go on to kill the Aedes Aegypti. So what we are proposing to do with this research is provide a substance to inactivate, to kill the larvae of the Aedes in a way that is quick and non-aggressive towards the environment," researcher, Natalia Inada, told Reuters at the laboratory in Sao Carlos in Sao Paulo state on Tuesday (May 12).
Tests on the photodynamic potential of the curcumin compound have been carried out using white electric light, LED illumination, and solar light, which proved the most effective.
All larvae bred in water containing the curcumin compound died after being exposed to between one and two hours' exposure to solar light.
The institute is in contact with the city council with a view to to adopting the use of curcumin in the fight against dengue fever.
Further tests are to be carried out before the method can be employed officially. The institute must prove that the compound would be safe in a domestic context and not cause environmental damage.
"We are in the final phase of tests on this substance in relation to other living organisms. The target of our investigations is the Aedes Aegypti, but we know that it is possible for other environments to be contaminated, and that fish, algae, a child or a pet could enter into contact with the substance. So we need to guarantee and have total certainty that the substance will not cause any environmental harm," said Inada.
The army recently stepped into the fight against dengue in Sao Paulo, accompanying health workers on residential visits to educate locals on appropriate cleaning and inspection methods to prevent pools of stagnant water, which promote the proliferation of the dengue mosquito.
Genetically modified mosquitoes have been released in Piracicaba, one of the cities worst affected by the epidemic in Sao Paulo state, as another alternative initiative which aims to suppress successive generations of mosquitoes by up to 90 percent.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's government budgeted 10.1 million reais (3.3 million U.S. dollars) in 2014 to explore new ways to combat dengue. It only spent about 60 percent of that due to a lack of viable projects, among other reasons, the health ministry said.
Nation-wide, 750,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed this year in this country of 200 million people, as well as 229 deaths so far this year - up 45 percent from the same period in 2014.
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