A cure for the flu could come from frog slime

19 April, 2017, 11:37 | Author: Eloise Marshall
  • IMAGE┬áThe South Indian frog Hydrophylax bahuvistara is shown.  view more  Credit Sanil George + Jessica Shartouny

What they found could treat a relentless scourge of humankind that kills as many as half a million people around the world each year.

Frogs have received a lot of attention, because it is easy to isolate peptides from the slimy layer of mucus on their skin.

The researchers believe that the compound has the potential to contribute to first-line anti-viral treatments during influenza outbreaks. Other antiviral medications attack different parts of the virus. However, the protection was only specific to some strains of flu. "The peptide does not kill other flu viruses because they lack this conserved piece in hemagglutinin". Known as "urumin", it also appeared to protect mice from lethal flu infections.

Fighting the flu has become more hard as new strains keep turning up.

Jacob's named it urumin, after an Indian sword.

Hydrophylax bahuvistara frog in its native environment in southern India.

The discovery is a reminder of the value of preserving biodiversity as a source of inspiration for new human drugs. Because flu viruses from humans can not infect frogs, producing urumin probably confers on frogs an advantage in fighting some other pathogen, he says. Those peptides have led to the discovery of many antibiotic agents, which is why researchers from the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology in Kerala, India, have been swabbing the skins of local frogs and screening these samples. One of these "host defense peptides", courtesy of a colorful tennis-ball-sized frog species (Hydrophylax bahuvistara) from southern India, can destroy many strains of human flu and protect mice against flu infection, researchers report April 18 in the journal Immunity. "And here we did 32 peptides, and we had 4 hits".

To his astonishment, the team immediately found four peptides that attacked influenza.

Since flu viruses from human beings can not infect frogs, these urumin-producing frogs have an advantage that we humans do not have as regards fending off the flu virus.

"It's just a matter of searching and finding them", he said. Then they chemically synthesized it. This is a less variable region of the flu virus that is also pinpointed by various vaccines.

Jacob said, "In this paper we screened 32 peptides, and the surprise was that four out of 32 had activity against the virus". The researchers hope to conduct further research in an attempt to create a version of urumin that can withstand our bodies' defenses, in addition to widening their search to include other species and other peptides that may be effective against different diseases. The one that was not was the urumin, which was able to "dismantle" several strains of flu viruses.

"This peptide works against all influenza viruses of the H1 hemagglutinin subtype because it binds specifically to a conserved piece in this protein", explained Jacob to Gizmodo. But these drugs - including zanamivir, oseltamivir, peramivir and laninamivir - are quickly thwarted when neuraminidase mutates.

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