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Understanding Avian Influenza

Korean dish may cure bird flu

By David Chazan
BBC News  14 March, 2005


South Korea's spicy fermented cabbage dish, kimchi, could help to cure bird flu, according to researchers.

Scientists at Seoul National University say they fed an extract of kimchi to 13 infected chickens - and a week later 11 of them had started recovering.

The researchers said the results were far from scientifically proven and if kimchi did have the effects they observed, it was unclear why.

South Koreans are reported to be eating more kimchi as a result of the study.

"I'm eating kimchi these days because I've heard in the media that it helps prevent bird flu infections," one man said.

Love it or loathe it, once you have eaten it, you will never forget it. Kimchi is made by fermenting cabbage with red peppers, radishes and a lot of garlic and ginger.

The idea that it could help poultry to fight off bird flu sounds like a dubious folk remedy.

But the theory is being floated by some of Korea's most eminent scientists.

"We found that the chickens recovered from bird flu, Newcastle disease and bronchitis. The birds' death rate fell, they were livelier and their stools became normal," said Professor Kang Sa-ouk.

Sars link

There was an increase in kimchi consumption two years ago, when thousands of people in Asia contracted Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

Kimchi was reported to have helped to prevent Sars. The claim was never scientifically proven, but according to some Koreans, people in other countries followed their example and started eating kimchi.

"After the Sars outbreak, I went to China and I noticed that the Korean restaurants there sold most of the kimchi they'd made that day," a Korean man said.

So one of Korea's national specialities may soon find a much bigger market. Whether it really is an effective remedy, only time and more research will tell.

Understanding Avian Influenza