South Indian frog oozes molecule that inexplicably decimates flu viruses

Frog Mucus For Flu Medicine

Researchers looked at secretions from the skin of a south Indian frog called Hydrophylax bahuvistara.

It's notas insane as it sounds: For decades, scientists have searched for new antiviral drugs by mining proteins that animals produce to protect themselves from microbes.

Some species of frogs have mucus that contains antimicrobial peptides, which are immune system molecules that can neutralize viruses, bacteria and fungi, CNN reports. Researchers suspected it had evolved some form of anti-viral compound, so they took some of the frog's slime and found a peptide they're calling urumin.

Researchers named the protein building block "urumin" after the urumi - a traditional whip-like sword with a flexible blade from the frog's home province of Kerala, southern India.

Dr Jacob's team are now searching for more frog-derived peptides that are effective against other viruses, including dengue fever and Zika. Senior author Joshy Jacob, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the Emory Vaccine Center and Emory University School of Medicine believes that this would be an invaluable resource if an influenza pandemic were to occur.

Jacob said the mucus is collected from the frog after exposing it to a mild electric current, which makes the amphibians secrete the antiviral agent. Known as "urumin", it also appeared to protect mice from lethal flu infections. 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.

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"Because flu viruses from humans can not infect frogs, producing urumin probably confers on frogs an advantage in fighting some other pathogen", said Jacob. A team, led by Joshy Jacob from Emory University, made a decision to screen 32 of these peptides against an influenza A strain.

Exposure to the flu virus is often confused with the common cold, as many of their symptoms overlap.

Jacob said an flu-fighting peptide could be especially useful when vaccines are not available or when circulating viral strains become resistant to current drugs. This protein is critical for the virus' ability to invade human cells because it's what the virus uses to latch onto them.

"Because flu viruses from humans can not infect frogs, producing urumin probably confers on frogs an advantage in fighting some other pathogen". Urumin basically makes it impossible for the virus to attach or reproduce, so it simply dies. And while the fourth peptide (urumin) played nice with blood cells in the lab, we can't know for sure that it would act the same way inside a human body.

Flu viruses are hard to combat, because they mutate and change so rapidly.

"The milk stayed good, just like you refrigerated it", Jacob said about the age-old Russian practice.