Getting around flu drug shortageScientists explore alternative means to produce key ingredient that could limit oseltamivir quantity during epidemicResearchers worldwide are exploring alternative ways to make sure there's enough shikimic acid -- the key ingredient in the anti-influenza drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) -- to meet the world's needs in the event of the much-feared bird flu pandemic. Currently, shikimic acid is mostly obtained from a seasonal plant that grows in four mountain provinces in China through a multi-step, low-yielding process of chemical extraction ? which has some scientists concerned."You can't rely on star anise for the amounts of shikimic acid that the world needs to produce Tamiflu," John Frost of Michigan State University in East Lansing told The Scientist.The extraction of shikimic acid is a complex process that starts with dried star anise, or Illicium verum, Martina Rupp, a spokesperson for Roche, the company that manufactures oseltamivir, told The Scientist...

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