Researchers from India and Emory University in Atlanta determined that frog mucus could help destroy influenza viruses classified as H1 and HA which are harmful to humans.
The mucus comes from the Hydrophylax bahuvistara, a variety of frog native to southern India. It can destroy many strains of the influenza virus, and it was able to protect mice from becoming infected on a lab setting.
The substance is a peptide known as “urumin,” named after urumi, a flexible sword that originated from the same province where the frog is known to live.
The influenza virus is weak against frog poison
Researchers note that humans also produce peptides to form defenses against external viruses, as it is a system that’s innate to all living organisms. The difference is that, because frogs excrete mucus as a defense mechanism, peptides are much easier to isolate. By chance, researchers happened to find the ideal frog mucus peptide that’s effective against plenty of influenza strains.
By giving the frog a small electric shock or by making them feel threatened, they excrete the mucus, allowing researchers to collect it without harming the specimen easily.
The initial groundwork was laid by researchers from the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology in Kerala, India. There, they isolated peptides from local frogs in a search for antibacterial proprieties. Out of 32 analyzed specimens, 4 of them appeared to have peptides able to act against the influenza virus.
Lead researcher Joshy Jacob points out that they tested just a handful of frogs, while important discoveries of such kind tend to require thousands of trials.
The only inconvenient is that, when exposed to human blood cells, 3 out of 4 peptides were toxic. The one that was not was the urumin, which was able to “dismantle” several strains of flu viruses.
So far, researchers believe that the urumin targets hemagglutinin, a particular protein that’s present in most influenza viruses. What urumin does is bind itself to hemagglutinin, causing a genetic destabilization in the virus because it needs hemagglutinin to infect other cells. This ends up in the decomposition of the virus.
The discovery is significant mainly because current antiviral drugs are exposed to drug tolerance. As influenza viruses change between seasons, they alter their genes to become resistant to current antiviral medicines. Health organizations such as the CDC supervise the mutation of influenza strains and announce public health policy recommendations about the adequate medication. This is why seasonal flu vaccination is the most common practice in preventing infection. The CDC recommends everyone six months or older receive a yearly vaccine.
Perhaps urumin is the key to the eradication of most influenza types, although researchers note that there’s still a long way to go before the compound is openly used on humans.
“Urumin represents a unique class of anti-influenza virucide that specifically targets the hemagglutinin stalk region, similar to targeting of antibodies induced by universal influenza vaccines. Urumin therefore has the potential to contribute to first-line antiviral treatments during influenza outbreaks,” reads the report.