Feijoas enlisted in the fight against fungus

  • 09/12/2017
Feijoa
Researchers have been interested in the feijoa's antibacterial and anti-cancer potential for some time. Photo credit: Getty

The humble feijoa might not only be a treat for your tastebuds, but it might be able to treat life-threatening fungal infections.

Researchers have been interested in the feijoa's antibacterial and anti-cancer potential for some time, but Victoria University of Wellington researcher Mona Mokhtari has been looking into its antifungal properties.

"Fungal infections cause 1 million deaths per year worldwide - more than breast cancer or tuberculosis - and that's even with the availability of antifungal drugs," Ms Mokhtari said.

The feijoa was a source of natural products and research showed drugs based on naturally occurring compounds often produced fewer side effects in patients and could be taken in lower doses than synthetic drugs, she said.

Ms Mokhtari has been working in the South Island to identify and test a particular compound in feijoas.

"I found that it is about 50 times more effective as an antifungal than as an antibacterial," she said.

"That makes the compound very promising as the basis for a drug that kills fungal cells without hurting human cells or the beneficial bacteria in the guts of humans."

A lot more work needed to be done before a drug could be developed and made available to doctors, but there was hope the compound could one day be turned into something that would pop up in pharmacies, she said.

NZN