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Antiviral Compounds from Plants.
by James B. Hudson. 1990 Press, 2000 Corporate Blvd., N. W., Boca Raton, FL 22431. Hardcover, 200 pp. incl. index. $95 US, $112 foreign. ISBN #08493-6541-4.

There has been a lot of interest in plant sources of antiviral compounds recently, especially since the advent of AIDS. Even before AIDS, however, researchers have been trying to find compounds that would kill viruses from the common cold and flu viruses and their mutant strains to the more serious polio viruses, and a host of others.

This book is a comprehensive survey of this research, coveting the compounds in fifteen chapters, most of them divided by type of plant compounds. For example, there are chapters on furocoumarins, alkaloids, flavonoids, terpenoids, lignans, proteins and peptides. The first five chapters deal with a breakdown of types of viral infections, viral strategies in replication, persistence and transmission, control of the infections, a critique of research methodology, and a discussion of the crude and purified plant compounds in virus research.

The author is a professor of microbiology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. As a chemist with an interest in botanical subjects, the following two paragraphs aptly sum up Professor Hudson's objectives:

"At present, plant resources are unlimited, as far as the search for useful phytochemicals is concerned; but those resources are dwindling fast thanks to progress and the onward march of civilization. Yet we have barely scraped the bark in our efforts to exploit the plant world for antiviral compounds. Although a significant number of studies have used known purified plant chemicals [as shown in the book], very few screening programs have been initiated on crude plant materials, in spite of centuries of tradition in most of the world's cultures controlling microbial infections by means of plant materials, and in spite of the recognition by many organic chemists that Mother Nature is the world's most creative and efficient chemist.

"The purpose of `exploiting' the plant world for useful chemicals is not, however, to destroy or decimate the forests for the extraction of tons of pure chemicals; rather, it is to identify those chemicals or mixtures of chemicals that could subsequently be synthesized in a chemistry laboratory on a more economical and larger scale. The chemist could then also prepare analogs that might be an improvement over the natural compound for a specific pharmaceutical application."

Article copyright American Botanical Council.