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Logging threatens
progress on HIV

Logging threatens
progress on HIV

Plants thought to help treat or cure cancer, HIV, and malaria have been found in the rain forests of Borneo, says a report from the Swiss-based global conservation group WWF. But the rapid destruction of trees--much of it by illegal logging to meet growing world demand for timber--could wreck any chance of using these discoveries in the fight against disease, the WWF has declared.

A promising anticancer substance has been found in a Borneo shrub by researchers for an Australian pharmaceutical firm, and a chemical found in latex produced by a tree appears to be effective against the replication of HIV, the report said. In the bark of another species of tree, researchers discovered a previously unknown substance that in laboratory tests appeared to kill the human malaria parasite.

In all, it said, 422 new plant species had been discovered in Borneo--shared by Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei--in the past 25 years, and many others were believed to be there that could have medicinal applications. But, "all these promising discoveries could eventually be lost if the disappearing rainforests of the heart of Borneo are not adequately protected," the WWF said.

"More forest destruction could well deny science the opportunity to discover and develop further potential sources of lifesaving medication," the WWF quoted Murray Tait--vice president of drug delivery at Cerylid Biosciences, the Australian company that identified the anticancer compound--as saying.

The report says Borneo's forest cover has shrunk from 75% of the island in the mid 1980s to 50% today. (Reuters)

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