Researchers use frog mucus to fight the flu

Researchers use frog mucus to fight the flu

Researchers are likely to continue to study urumin and make sure it is effective and safe enough to be tested in humans.

The study's lead author, Emory flu expert Joshy Jacob, wondered if the frog mucus might also contain peptides that could neutralize viruses that attack humans.

Frogs' skins were known to secrete "host defense peptides" that defend them against bacteria.

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

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Jacob and his research team are now exploring other frog-derived peptides that might help treat or prevent viruses, including dengue and Zika, and they hope to develop the antimicrobial peptides from frogs into active drugs. Some peptides are antimicrobial, playing a role in an animal's immune system, and although they generally only benefit the species that's producing them, the Emory team wanted to see if these flu fighters could carry across to humans.

In the tests, urumin delivered through the nose protected unvaccinated mice from lethal doses of flu viruses. The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement that the two flu subtypes now circulating in the world are H1 and H3. The finding, published Tuesday in Immunity, suggests that the peptides represent a resource for antiviral drug discovery as well.

The researchers aren't quite sure why urumin only targets H1 viruses, but Jacob said that H1 viruses might be anatomically similar to an amphibian pathogen that the frog mucus is meant to destroy. This is also the structure that gives flu viruses the "H" in their names, and it's the part that many flu vaccines aim for.

Jacob said, "In this paper we screened 32 peptides, and the surprise was that four out of 32 had activity against the virus".

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Jacob and his colleagues looked at 32 frog defense peptides for use against a flu strain and found that four of these had flu-busting abilities.

Hemagglutinin is a protein present on the surface of flu viruses. Electron microscope images of the virus after exposure to urumin reveal a virus that has been completely dismantled, researchers said.

Researchers at Emory Vaccine Center say there's a compound in the skin secretions of the South Indian Frog that may be able to kill the flu. The researchers found various antiviral peptides in the skin secretion. In these cases, giving drugs to people after they're infected can make infections milder and shorten the time an infected person is sick. 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 ones in nature have evolved over millions of years and perfected themselves by trial and error", Jacob said.

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"Urumin therefore has the potential to contribute to first-line anti-viral treatments during influenza outbreaks".

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