Plants thought to help treat or cure cancer, AIDS and malaria have
been found in the rainforests of Borneo, a report from the Swiss-based
global conservation group WWF said on Thursday.

But the rapid
destruction of trees, much of it by illegal logging to meet growing
world demand for timber, could wreck any chance of using these
discoveries in the fight against disease, the WWF declared.

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promising anti-cancer substance has been found in a Borneo shrub by
researchers for an Australian pharmaceutical firm, while a chemical
found in latex produced by a tree appears to be effective against the
replication of HIV, the report said.

In the bark of another
species of tree, the researchers discovered a previously unknown
substance which in laboratory tests appeared to kill the human malaria
parasite, it added.

In all, it said, 422 new plant species had been discovered in
Borneo — shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei — in the last 25
years and many others were believed to be there which could have
medicinal applications.

But "all these promising discoveries
could eventually be lost if the disappearing rainforests of the heart
of Borneo are not adequately protected," the WWF said.