Tobacco Asia

Volume 18, Number 5

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Page 63 of 83

64 tobaccoasia By Andrey Medvedev Most news that we hear about tobacco in the mainstream media is not favorable when it comes to the future of this native of the Americas. It seems every day we see a new piece of anti-tobacco legislation being pushed through in one country or another. The anti-tobacco lobbyists are stronger than ever, and in many parts of the world, tobacco companies are being legislated into a corner and possibly even out of existence. In this climate, you would be forgiven for thinking that tobacco is ba- sically growing one root in the grave. But the to- bacco plant still has a few aces up its sleeve! Recent research points to tobacco having numerous uses outside of smoking. The name tobacco usually refers to most fa- mous and widely used Nicotiana tabacum and its shorter but more potent cousin Nicotiana rustica. However, tobacco's genus, Nicotiana, covers over 70 species, and many of them have been found surprisingly promising in different areas. Medicinal uses In the last issue, we told you about an experimental treatment for Ebola: the drug comes from tobacco plants that were turned into living pharmaceuti- cal factories, a practice that is sometimes called "pharming". But some companies and research- ers are now trying to create drugs and vaccines not just against Ebola, but also against such diseases as HIV, cancer, the Marburg virus, and the norovirus, known for causing outbreaks of stomach problems on cruise ships. According to Daniel Tuse, a consultant and managing director of Intrusept Biomedicine, plant-based drugs have attracted the attention and funding of the US government as a fast and inex- pensive way to produce a lot of vaccines in case of a terrorist attack. Scientists prefer tobacco plants because they grow quickly and their biology is well understood, which helps them to quickly produce the necessary Tobacco: It's Not Just for Smoking

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