London, Apr 24 : New and effective discoveries for painkillers, cancer treatments, ways to regrow limbs and even HIV cures could be lost as species become extinct before scientists have the chance to exploit their health benefits for humans, conservationists have warned.
According to a the book 'Sustaining Life' which contains the work of more than 100 experts, a new generation of medical treatments could be lost forever unless the current rate of biodiversity loss is reversed.
The book is being published ahead of a global summit in May that will look at ways to stem biodiversity loss by 2010.
"While extinction is alarming in its own right, the book demonstrates that many species can help human lives," BBC quoted co-author Jeffrey McNeely, chief scientist at IUCN, as saying.
"If we needed more justification for action to conserve species, it offers dozens of dramatic examples of both why and how citizens can act in ways that will conserve, rather than destroy, the species that enrich our lives," he added.
One creature whose potential benefits have been lost to science is the southern gastric brooding frog (Rheobatrachus silus), say the authors. Some sharks have seen numbers fall by as much as 75percent in 15 years. First described in 1973, the frogs, which were only found in Australia, interested researchers because they raised their young in the females' stomachs.
"These studies could not be continued because both species of Rheobactrachus became extinct," said co-authors Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein from Harvard Medical School, US.
"The valuable medical secrets they held are now gone forever," they added.