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NewsBites January 2010 Issue

Fungi Offers Hope for Grapefruit Fans

People on certain medications that interact with grapefruit juice may someday be able to enjoy the tart beverage againóthanks to a fungus. Studies by USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have shown that the fungusó Aspergillus nigerócan either bind or break down the compounds in grapefruit, called furanocomarins (FCs), that affect medications. FCs inhibit the enzymatic activity responsible for metabolizing certain prescribed medications, allowing more of the medication to enter the bloodstream. Affected drugs include some of those used to treat a wide range of conditions such as allergies, abnormal heart rhythm, depression, hypertension, infections, heart disease and high cholesterol. Enzymatic inactivation of FCs may be a means of eliminating them from commercial grapefruit juice, and work to identify these enzymes in A. niger is in progress.

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