VIETNAM has become the latest country to give a boost to global star anise demand by announcing that its scientists have extracted shikimic acid from the fruit as part of a process to create anti-bird flu drug Tamiflu.
Over the next five to six months, scientists at Vietnam’s Chemistry Institute plan to perfect the production of Oseltamivir, the active ingredient in Tamiflu, from star anise on a laboratory basis.
The Vietnamese scientists claim that they are making between 6.5 and seven grams of shikimic acid from 100 grams of star anise, but wish to reach the optimal yield of nine to 10 grams.
Vietnam’s northern province of Lang Son with over 8,000 hectares of star anise is the country’s biggest anise-growing area and produces between 5,000 and 6,000 tonnes of the dried fruit annually.
A surge in demand for Tamiflu has seen prices of shikimic acid, and hence star anise, rocket on the world market.
In November, Vietnam’s Health Ministry announced that it had signed a deal, under which Roche, the Swiss producer of Tamiflu, would supply Vietnam with necessary materials and techniques to manufacture the drug in the country.