Cranberries can help to combat herpes

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Cranberries have been shown to help combat one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in Britain.

Cranberries have been shown to help combat one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in Britain.

Scientists have found a substance in cranberries that appears to prevent infection of cells in a test tube with the virus that causes genital herpes, though the work has yet to be replicated in humans.

Genital herpes is caused by the HSV-2 virus and a substance in cranberries called proanthocyanidin A-1 makes it harder for the virus to penetrate cells growing in the laboratory as well as slowing down viral replication.

Alpine cranberry, Vaccinium vitis-idaea, is a woody, evergreen shrub, commonly used for jellies, jams, sauces and liqueurs. But it is also a herbal remedy. A compound in the leaves called arbutin is used as a stomach medicine and the flowers are dried to produce remedies for lung problems.

Scientists in Taiwan, led by Chun-Ching Lin of Kaohsiung Medical University, isolated the compound from dried cranberry leaves. Their research, reported in the Journal of The Science of Food and Agriculture,showed that the substance helped to prevent the herpes virus from attaching to and penetrating monkey-kidney cells.

HSV-2 is one of two kinds of herpes simplex virus. The other, HSV-1, is mostly responsible for cold sores, although each can sometimes invade the other's territory.

An estimated 10 per cent of Britons are infected with genital herpes. However three-quarters do not know they have it. A quarter show no symptoms, while half only suffer mild effects.

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