Apparently a certain slime emanating from a species of South Indian frog could be a bulwark against flu virus.
A part of the mucus secreted from the skin of South Indian frogs can eliminate the H1 variety of influenza viruses. Researchers recently made this exciting discovery.
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The frogs’ skins were found to exude host defense peptides that kept them safe from a certain class of bacteria.The peptides serve as a source of antiviral drugs. Such anti-flu peptides could prove useful when vaccines are not readily available.
If a novel pandemic strain attacks or if pre-existent strains develop drug resistance, such a method of using the slime from frogs to make powerful drugs that fight the virus would be just the ideal solution.
One of the antiviral peptides was named “urumin”. This was after a sword resembling a whip called “urumi”. The “urumi” has been used in Southern India since centuries as a martial arts weapon of choice.
Urumin was found in the material the skin of the frog named Hydrophylax bahuvistara oozed time after time. This skin secretion was collected by giving the frog a mild eletrical stimulus.
Peptides are basically short chains of amino acids. Amino acids in turn are the very brick and mortar of more complex structures known as proteins. Some of the anti-bacterial peptides do their job by making holes in the cell membranes and are thus not suitable for use in human beings.
Yet urumin is not like this. It is safe and reliable. It just breaks up the integral structure of the flu virus. This can be seen through an electron microscope. It works by binding the stalk of hemagglutinin. This is a less variable region of the flu virus that is also pinpointed by various vaccines.
This could have great value since the current anti-flu drugs attack other parts of the virus and are thus not as effective in their action.
Since flu viruses from human beings cannot infect frogs, these urumin-producing frogs have an advantage that we humans do not have as regards fending off the flu virus.
When delivered through the nasal cavities, the compound known as urumin protected unvaccinated mice from a lethal dose of the flu virus. It shows specificity for the H1 strain of flu virus. It is however not effective against other strains such as the H3N2.
Converting peptides into drugs has been quite a challenge in the past. That is because certain enzymes in the body dissolve these drugs. The next step is to explore ways to make these peptide-derived anti-viral compounds more stable so they could act in the body in an effective manner.
The finding of this research were published in the journal Immunity.