The herbal remedy Phyllanthus may become the first medicine in the world registered to treat fatty liver, after Chinese University proved it effective in treating the condition. Fatty liver, in which too much fat accumulates in the liver, can result in inflammation, cirrhosis, liver failure and cancer if untreated. One in five Hongkongers has the condition. The university, which tested Phyllanthus on cells and mice over the past two years, found it helpful in controlling the condition after inflammation develops. The study is now in the clinical trial period and researchers will have the final conclusion by the end of next year. The herb, common in tropical and subtropical regions and sold in Hong Kong drug stores as a proprietary Chinese medicine, has a reputation in Asian medicine of protecting the liver because of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. When mice with fatty liver were fed Korean Phyllanthus for 10 days, the inflammation and fat accumulation in their livers were reduced. One of the researchers, Professor Henry Chan Lik-yuen, said the herb was able to destroy the mechanism causing inflammation in human bodies, so more serious conditions caused by fatty liver such as cirrhosis could be avoided. He said the medicine had few side effects and would be safe for most patients. Half of the 60 patients selected for the clinical study will be fed six capsules, each containing 200 milligrams of Phyllanthus, every day for 48 weeks. Researchers will look at the efficacy and durability of the herb in human bodies. The other half will be the control group. Chan's partner in the project, Professor Vincent Wong Wai-sun, said patients with fatty liver usually only had slight symptoms and most discovered they had the condition during a health check. He suggested high-risk groups, such as the overweight and obese, have more frequent health checks. There is no medicine to treat fatty liver at present. Patients are usually told to get more exercise and eat healthily.