- Flu viruses are responsible for causing respiratory infections.
- Scientists have found frog mucus to be loaded with a number of host defense peptide molecules that are capable of killing the bacteria and viruses.
- Potential antimicrobials can be developed from the frog mucus as it is easier to isolate the peptides.
The mucus of the frog is loaded with a number of molecules that is capable of killing bacteria and viruses. This could be a potential source for developing a new antimicrobial drug.
Scientists find that the "host defense peptides" obtained from the tennis-ball sized frog species (Hydrophylax bahuvistara) in South India could actually destroy the many strains of human flu and protect the mice against flu infections.
‘Frog mucus could be a new antimicrobial drug for killing the flu viruses.’
The research study was reported in the journal Immunity.
Although, it may take some time to develop the peptides into an anti-flu drug, yet this is undoubtably the first evidence that proves the flu-killing ability.
The drug may work by binding to a protein which is identical across many influenza strains. This would be able to neutralize dozens of flu strains ranging from archival strains up to the modern ones.
The research team has named the newly identified peptide "urumin" from the word urumi, a sword with a flexible blade that snaps and bends like a whip, which comes from the same Indian province, Kerala, as the frog.
Joshy Jacob of Emory University, "Different frogs make different peptides, depending on where their habitat is. You and I make host defense peptides ourselves."
"It's a natural innate immune mediator that all living organisms maintain. We just happened to find one that the frog makes that just happens to be effective against the H1 influenza type."
Mostly animals prefer making at least a few anti-microbial host defense peptides as part of their innate immune systems.
Why have frogs drawn the attention?
The frogs are well known to have drawn the attention for developing the antimicrobial drug because:
It is easier to isolate the peptides from the frog mucus. By either giving a small electric shock or by rubbing a powder on the frogs, the host defense peptides can be collected.
A research team from the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology in Kerala, India has isolated the peptides from their local frogs that can screen for potential antimicrobials.
Jacob wondered if the peptides can actually neutralize the human-infecting viruses. The research team screened around 32 frog defense peptides against the influenza strain and found only four of them to have flu-busting abilities.
Jacob said, "I was almost knocked off my chair."
"In the beginning, I thought that when you do drug discovery, you have to go through thousands of drug candidates, even a million, before you get 1 or 2 hits. And here we did 32 peptides, and we had 4 hits."
The research team exposed the isolated human red blood cells to the flu-buster peptides. Three out of the four were found to be toxic. However, the fourth one was urumin- which seemed to be harmless to the human cells and proved to be lethal for a wide range of flu viruses.
The electron microscope images of the virus after the exposure to urumin may reveal the virus that has been completely dismantled.
How Does Urumin Work?
The scientists are working on the flu-destroying mechanisms and urumin may appear to work by targeting a viral surface protein called hemagluttinin, the H in H1N1.
"The virus needs this hemagglutinin to get inside our cells," says Jacob. "What this peptide does is it binds to the hemagglutinin and destabilizes the virus. And then it kills the virus."
Interesting Facts on Flu Viruses:
- Influenza virus infects the respiratory system and is commonly referred to as the flu virus. Symptoms may include fever, aches, chills, tiredness and sudden onset.
- About 20% of Americans are affected by influenza every year.
- Around 5 million people may get a serious type of influenza annually.
- Flu viruses can remain infectious for about seven days, and if the virus is frozen, it can be infectious for an indefinite period of time.
- Getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent influenza virus.
- Holthausen et al.,"An Amphibian Host Defense Peptide Is Virucidal for Human H1 Hemagglutinin-Bearing Influenza Virusest", Immunity (2017); http://www.cell.com/immunity/fulltext/S1074-7613(17)30128-0 , DOI: 10.1016/j.immuni.2017.03.018
- 12 Interesting Facts About Influenza
- (http://healthresearchfunding.org/12-interesting-facts-influenza/ )