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TRADITIONAL medicines are helping the search for new drugs to replace increasingly ineffective antibiotics. R. Perumal Samy and his colleagues at Loyola College in Chennai, India, tested plants used as remedies by tribes in the Western Ghat mountains. Extracts of 20 plants inhibited the growth of pathogenic bacteria. For example, leaves of the toothbrush tree (Streblus asper), whose bark is used elsewhere in Asia for toothache, worked as well as the antibiotics streptomycin and chloramphenicol against Bacillus and Staphylococcus species (Journal of Ethno-pharmacology, vol 69,
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