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S African Indian professor suspended

Girish Kotwal was suspended after he endorsed an unproven herbal drug as a treatment for AIDS.

india Updated: Jul 05, 2006 11:37 IST

A South African Indian professor in the University of Cape Town (UCT) has been suspended from his research duties and his laboratory closed down after he endorsed an unproven herbal drug as a treatment for AIDS.

According to reports here, Girish Kotwal, head of the virology department in UCT's faculty of health sciences, has been suspended following a report in the international journal Nature, which described how a herbal remedy was being touted as an effective HIV treatment by Stellenbosch-based firm Secomet International.

This was apparently being done with Kotwal's full support.

The drug, Secomet V, is yet to be tested on humans and is not registered in the country's Medicines Control Council.

"We regard the allegations in serious light," reports quoted UCT spokesperson Skye Grove as saying.

A report in the Business Day newspaper quoted Grove as saying that the remedy had not been properly tested for safety and efficacy and the limited patient research conducted had not been approved by the university.

There are around 5.5 million HIV positive people in South Africa.

She said that UCT had instituted a disciplinary inquiry, following a preliminary investigation by its health sciences faculty.

Kotwal had worked in the US before joining UCT in 2001.

He is supposed to return to Cape Town Tuesday after an overseas trip and meet with representatives of the university.