A frog protein protects mice against flu infection
Emory University researchers have found that a frog slime protein can kill flu virus. The study, published in Immunity, demonstrates that a peptide from the skin of the South Indian frog, named "urumin", is virucidal for the H1 variety of influenza viruses.
Unlike humans, frogs do not have an immune system that protects them against pathogens. But the skins of frog are known to secrete host defense peptides, which possess broad antimicrobial function and help protect them. To determine if these peptides could help combat flu, lead researcher Joshy Jacob and colleagues collected mucus from the skin of 15 frogs after mild electrical stimulation.
They screened 32 peptides in the mucus and identified four that had anti-flu properties. One peptide, which they named "urumin", in particular grabbed their attention. Urumin effectively destroyed several strains of influenza viruses and some harmful microbes.
With the help of electron microscope, they demonstrated that urumin specifically targeted the stalk of H1 hemagglutinin and physically destroyed influenza virions. The stalk of H1 hemagglutinin is a conserved region of the flu virus, and this region is also the target of antibodies induced by universal flu vaccines.
Animal experiments demonstrated the protective effect of urumin against lethal flu infection. Importantly, the peptide could kill drug-resistant H1 influenza viruses. Overall, the data suggests that urumin represents a new class of antiviral agent.
Vaccines and antiviral drugs are both important weapons in the fight against harmful viruses. But during pandemics, there may not be enough time to produce vaccines. In this case, antiviral drugs become the first line of defense. It is important to develop new antiviral drugs due to the risk of drug resistance.
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