New tests for fake medicine

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 December, 1999, 12:00am

A pioneering DNA technology for authenticating Chinese medicine developed by Hong Kong scientists is being promoted on the mainland.

Scientists from the Chinese University's Chinese Medicinal Material Research Centre have spent two years developing tests which can distinguish genuine Chinese medicine from fakes in one to two days.

With a grant from the Environmental Conservation Fund and support from the Agriculture and Fisheries Department, the team is studying authentication tests for endangered animal and plant species used in Chinese medicine. Professor Shaw Pang-chui from the university's biochemistry department said his team had developed DNA fingerprinting protocols for 50 species of medicinal materials, including the commonly used American ginseng and Asian ginseng.

'The technology can be used by pharmaceutical or agricultural companies to certify the quality of their herbs and products,' he said.

He said the new test was more accurate than chemical tests or an examination of the medicine's appearance or smell.

The university has obtained a patent for the tests in the United States and has applied for one on the mainland.