Karachi (PPI) - Blueberry leaves might offer protection against hepatitis C virus infections, according to researchers. The research led by University of Miyazaki in southern Japan has revealed that a chemical found in blueberry leaves has shown a strong effect in blocking the replication of the Hepatitis C virus. Currently, there is no vaccine for HCV, and though a combination drug regimen can clear HCV infection, this treatment is only about 60 percent effective on average and poses risks of severe side effects. Lead researcher Hiroaki Kataoka hypothized that since HCV is localised in the liver and can take 20 years or more to develop into disease, a dietary supplement might help slow or stop disease progression. During the study, the researchers screened nearly 300 different agricultural products for potential compounds that suppress HCV replication and uncovered a strong candidate in the leaves of rabbit-eye blueberry (native to the southeastern US). They purified the compound and identified it as proanthocyandin (a polyphenol similar to the beneficial chemicals found in grapes and wine). While proanthocyandin can be harmful, Kataoka and colleagues noted its effective concentration against HCV was 100 times less than the toxic threshold, and similar chemicals are found in many edible plants, suggesting it should be safe as a dietary supplement. The researchers are now planning to explore the detailed mechanisms of how this chemical stops HCV replication. Potassium cuts kidney stones in children Children on the high-fat ketogenic or 'K diet to control epileptic seizures can prevent the development of painful kidney stones that the diet can sometimes cause if they take a daily supplement of potassium citrate. The ketogenic diet is a high fat, adequate protein, low carbohydrate diet used effectively in many children with epileptic seizures who do not respond to drug therapy. It is believed to work by initiating biochemical changes that eliminate seizure-triggering short circuits in the brains signaling system. But the diet, which is made up of high-fat foods with very few carbohydrates, causes a Build-up of calcium in the urine and the formation of kidney stones in about 6 percent of those on it. Researchers from America studied 313 children who were treated for epilepsy with the ketogenic diet to find out the efficiency of potassium citrate supplements in preventing kidney stones. All the children were treated with potassium citrate 2 mEq/kg who were identified with excessive urinary calcium excretion. It was found that there was a 7-fold drop in kidney stones in all patients on the ketogenic diet when potassium citrate was used universally at the start of the diet. Potassium citrate taken twice daily, either as powder sprinkled on food or dissolved in water is believed to inhibit stone formation. It is thought that that by making the urine alkaline, urine calcium becomes more soluble and is excreted, thus reducing the risk for kidney stones. The researchers concluded that potassium citrate supplements are safe and powerful way to prevent kidney stones, and should become part of standard therapy in all ketogenic dieters.