A new study suggest that the residue produced by a certain species of frog may provide a new method for fighting flu epidemics.
A south Indian frog called Hydrophylax bahuvistara produces secretions from its skin, among which is a peptide with the ability to kill certain flu viruses.
This peptide has now been laballed urumin, and scientists discovered that this substance also has the ability to protect mice from the flu virus.
Only 3 in 10 mice given urumin died from the infection, compared to 8 in 10 mice which weren’t treated with urumin.
Although this research are still at a very early stage, it is hoped that more research will provide a major breakthrough.
The study was carried out by researchers from Emory University and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the US, and the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology in India.
Sources of funding weren’t clear, but one author acknowledged a grant from the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Cell, with significant coverage in the British media since.
Peptides have previously been shown to destroy some human viruses in laboratory conditions, so this latest study doesn’t come as a huge surprise in some respects.
Researchers in this study indeed identified 32 peptides in the mucus collected from the skin of frogs, with four of these able to kill more than half of a sample of the human H1N1 flu virus.
Urumin was particularly effective at killing different types of H1N1 flu viruses in the lab, destroying at least 60% of each of the eight types of H1N1 tested.
It also performed well in killing seven strains of H1N1 that were resistant to antiviral medicines such as Tamiflu.
The researchers concluded that they had identified a peptide called urumin in the skin secretions of a south Indian frog which can kill H1 strains of the human flu virus.
They also claim that urumin “has the potential to contribute to first-line anti-viral treatments during influenza outbreaks”.
However, a considerable amount of research must be conducted before it is possible to conclude whether this new discovery is safe for human treatment.
It is also notable that flu viruses are hard to combat, as they mutate and change rapidly.
Health officials still recommend vaccination as an effective way of fighting flu viruses.