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Ajit Johnson
Cancer biologist, University of Edinburgh.
April 20, 2017 · 18 Reads

Frog mucus kills flu virus

In short: Skin secretions from the South Indian frog Hydrophylax bahuvistara contain antiviral peptides. In case of a new pandemic or when viruses become resistant to current drugs, these anti-flu peptides could become handy.

Background

Influenza is the most common recurring human respiratory virus. Worldwide there are 3–5 million cases of severe influenza infection annually, which affects 5%–10% of adults and 20%–30% of children and results in 250–500 thousand deaths.

Photo courtesy of Sanil George and Jessica Shartouny.

What’s New

Frogs’ skin were known to secrete peptides that defend them against bacteria, but in this case researchers have shown that peptides extracted from the skin of south Indian frog could be a resource for antiviral drug discovery as well.

Peptides are short chains of amino acids and are the building blocks of proteins. Some anti-bacterial peptides work by punching holes in cell membranes, and are thus toxic to mammalian cells. But these peptides did not show the toxic qualitites. They appeared to only disrupt the integrity of flu virus.

Researchers also showed that this peptide protected un-vaccinated mice against a lethal dose of flu virus (H1 strains of flu).

Significance

Anti-flu peptides could become handy when vaccines are unavailable, in the case of a new pandemic strain, or when circulating strains become resistant to current drugs.

The Future

Developing antimicrobial peptides into effective drugs has been a challenge in the past, partly because enzymes in the body can break them down. The researchers are now exploring ways to stabilise antiviral peptides, as well as looking for frog-derived peptides that are active against other viruses like dengue and Zika.

Research Article: An Amphibian Host Defense Peptide Is Virucidal for Human H1 Hemagglutinin-Bearing Influenza Viruses, Immunity, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.immuni.2017.03.018

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