Specialists from the State Virology and Biotechnology Centre "Vector" (Novosibirsk Region, Koltsovo) found that chaga, oyster mushrooms and some other mushrooms can be used to develop drugs against HIV.

Strains of these mushrooms showed low toxicity and strong antiviral activity. During the study, 82 strains isolated from 44 species of mushrooms growing in south-west Siberia were found for the first time. However, the broadest spectrum of antiviral activity was found to be exhibited by the well-known chaga mushroom.

In Russia, chaga was used as a remedy as early as the XVI century. All kinds of gastrointestinal diseases and tumours were cured by using this incredible mushroom. Chaga is the only mushroom that was introduced and registered in the Russian Pharmacopoeia.

A total of ten strains of Siberian mushrooms showed expressed antiviral effects against human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), herpes simplex type 2, influenza and smallpox, the Koltsovo press centre said.

It is well known that mushrooms growing near large cities should not be collected. Mushrooms absorb harmful substances and can be harmful to the human body, the press centre said. Now they are trying to collect birch chaga in ecologically clean regions - in the Altai, for example. It is also possible to grow the mushroom in the laboratory in the form of biomass and then use its active ingredients to make medicines. But the wild chaga mushroom is much more potent than its cultivated counterpart. Ten Siberian mushroom strains are now available in a collection from "Vector". In the future, scientists propose to use them for the production of medicines and food supplements.

This is a promising direction that is in line with global trends: in Japan, for example, 30 per cent of the market for drugs to treat cancer is concentrated on drugs derived from mushrooms. Work on the identification of ten promising Siberian fungal strains was carried out in the laboratory of mycology SSC "Vector", headed by the doctor of biological sciences Tamara Teplyakova. In 2008, the study of fungi in south-western Siberia began to carry her student Tatiana Kosogova.