April 11, 2010, Updated September 24, 2012

New research from Israel suggests that carnivorous plants like the Venus Fly Trap may provide a breakthrough in anti-fungal drugs for use in humans.

Prof. Aviah Zilberstein of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Plant Sciences says that unusual components from the “pitchers” of carnivorous plants may be effective against infections that are widespread in hospitals and often lead to death.

The pitcher is the cavity in the plant into which insects fall, activating the plant’s enzymes so they can dissolve their meal.

Carnivorous plants also possess a highly-developed set of compounds and secondary metabolites to aid in their survival, which could serve as a new class of anti-fungal drugs for use in human medicine.

Primary results are encouraging, as the unusual components from the plants’ pitchers were found effective as anti-fungal drugs to treat human fungal infections widespread in hospitals.

Currently there is a need for additional broadly effective anti-fungal drugs. Even mildly severe forms of athlete’s foot or other skin fungal infections lack effective treatments. And thousands of Americans die each year from secondary fungal infections acquired at hospitals.

The initial research, published recently in the journal Experimental Biology, may be the basis for a new way to stave off these sometimes deadly infections.


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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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