That odorous but tasty garlic bulb may have more uses than those outlined in your favorite family recipe book.

Two Brigham Young University microbiologists have found that extract of garlic (allium sativum) is capable of destroying certain viruses - some of which cause fever blisters, genital herpes, a form of the common cold and smallpox.James A. North and Byron K. Murray say their studies, conducted in vitro or at the cell culture level, verify an age-old claim that garlic is good for what ails you. The study was conducted for Murdock International, Springville. North and Murray presented results of their work this month in Florida at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

"Historically, garlic has been used for medicinal purposes," said Murray. "We are reporting that garlic extract inactivates certain viruses - that it kills these viruses 99.99 percent of the time."

Of the viruses tested, parainfluenza 3 (a type of flu and respiratory tract virus), human rhinovirus 2 (a type of cold), herpes simplex 1 (the common cold sore or fever blister) and herpes simplex 2 (genital herpes) were all killed over 99 percent of the time when garlic extract was mixed with the virus, they said.

The researchers don't know which of garlic's many chemicals kills the viruses, but are now looking at specific components.

They will attempt to separate the garlic extract into portions that have different properties to try to locate the ingredient that kills specific viruses.

Although garlic has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant, supposedly healing such illnesses as rheumatism, dermatitis, abdominal pain, skin rashes and intestinal wounds, it has only been in the past 10 years that any real scientific studies have taken place.