An extract from the Indian spice saffron could be the latest piece in the puzzle in the fight against dengue, say researchers in Brazil. Sharon Reich reports.
These tiny little threads can turn foods a magical marigold color. Now it seems that saffron can also help limit the reproduction of dengue-carrying mosquitoes. Researchers at the Physics Institute at the University of Sao Paulo found that when the Aedes Aegypti mosquito is exposed to an extract from the spice mixed with sugar, it erodes the mosquito's digestive system from within, preventing it from reproducing. Researcher Natalia Inada... SOUNDBITE (Portuguese) RESEARCHER, NATALIA INADA, SAYING: "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. (A-DEUS E-GIPTIE) 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." Sao Paulo battles an ongoing epidemic of dengue fever, with at least 8,000 cases recorded just this year. Tests on the photodynamic potential of the saffron-sugar compound have been carried out using various sources of light. All the larvae bred in water containing the compound died after being exposed for one to two hours. SOUNDBITE (Portuguese) RESEARCHER, NATALIA INADA, SAYING: "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's 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 have total certainty that the substance will not cause any environmental harm." The team are already in contact with the city council and hope to begin using the new saffron compound soon to help combat this deadly disease.