An Australian biotechnology company has isolated a natural extract from seaweed that has been shown to inhibit the H1N1 virus, providing new hope for the containment of influenza outbreaks.

The extract, known as Maritech 926, is a fucoidan compound derived from the Undaria pinnatifida species of seaweed.

In vitro tests performed alongside the US National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) showed that Maritech 926 can inhibit the H1N1 influenza virus at extremely low concentrations.

Developed by Marinova Pty, the extract is a natural polysaccharide that the company believes has immediate market potential in nutritional supplements, hand washes and nasal delivery products that target the spread and prevention of viral conditions.

Marinova senior scientist Dr Helen Fitton said that fucoidan extracts are known to have significant inhibitory effects on a range of coated viruses.

“With H1N1 already becoming resistant to some other antiviral agents, we believe that Maritech 926 offers a potent, natural alternative,” Fitton said.

Scope may also exist for the compound to be included in pharmaceutical and medical device applications.

Based on these findings, Marinova has filed for patent protection over the application of Maritech 926 and other fucoidan extracts in a range of anti-viral applications.