Could frog slime cure the flu?

23 April, 2017, 01:44 | Author: Lorena Waters
  • South Indian frog Hydrophylax bahuvistara.    
   Image by Sanil George and Jessica Shartouny

It sounds like weird science, but the slime that coats the skin of South Indian frogs might fight some strains of the flu.

The researchers will look more on how effective this new finding will be to other animals and eventually to humans.

Joint research by scientists from Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) here and the US-based Emory Vaccine Center have identified a crucial component from skin mucus of a species of a frog, a peptide that kills all H1influenza viruses.

Frogs naturally secrete slime to help protect them from bacteria and fungi.

The flu-fighting compounds are called peptides, which are short chains of amino acids; those are the building blocks of proteins.

More research is needed to determine if urumin could become a preventive treatment against the flu in humans, and to see if other frog-derived peptides could protect against viruses like dengue and Zika.

H1 flu viruses are targetted by the urumin peptide in the mucus of the frogs.

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When delivered through the nasal cavities, the compound known as urumin protected unvaccinated mice from a lethal dose of the flu virus. Tests on mice showed that the compound was effective against dozens of H1 strains, including the 2009 pandemic strain, but not against H3N2 and other flu strains.

The researchers found four peptides, or small molecules, within the mucus that were able to kill off flu viruses in the lab.

"It's a natural innate immune mediator that all living organisms maintain", said Josh Jacob, who co-authored the study at Emory University, Georgia.

The substance is a peptide known as "urumin", named after urumi, a flexible sword that originated from the same province where the frog is known to live. The team named the newly discovered peptide "urumin". According to NBC News, the researchers are planning to formulate antiviral drugs out of it to treat people infected by a flu virus. Putting the H in H1, this protein is a key part of how the flu virus grips and attacks healthy human cells.

It is indicated that the peptide from the frog slime will directly kill influenza viruses. Colds also do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalization, while the flu virus can. As opposed to common antiviral peptides that work by punching a hole in the cell membranes, urumin appears to bind the stalk of hemagglutinin.

The study said: "Urumin is a unique class of anti-influenza viricide specifically targeting haemagglutinin". That means scientists need to create a more stable version before the drug can be widely produced or used in human trials.

Tackling the flu isn't just a matter of feeling better in the winter or staying healthy to avoid using up those vacation days.

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