Researchers use frog mucus to fight the flu
Frog mucus is loaded with molecules that kill bacteria and viruses, and researchers are beginning to investigate it as a potential source for new anti-microbial drugs. The scientists involved in the study first collected mucus from the frogs by applying slight electrical shocks to them, which causes them to secrete the substance, Phys.org notes. The finding, scheduled for publication in Immunity, suggests that the peptides represent a resource for antiviral drug discovery as well.
Researchers from the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology in Kerala, India, had been isolating peptides from the slime of local frogs.
Hydrophylax bahuvistaraa frog superimposed on a green background with the shapes of flu viruses in lighter green.
Peptides are short chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. But when the researchers put these peptides in a dish with human red blood cells, three of them killed the blood cells by punching holes in their cell membranes. Only urumin seemed to be harmless to human cells but lethal to multiple flu virus strains. The scientists are also searching for more frog-derived peptides that are active against other viruses, such as dengue and Zika. (Don't worry, the animals were returned to their natural habitat.) They then isolated several molecules from the secretions and tested them on human blood cells until they found one, called urumin, that killed flu viruses while not hurting the cells.
It's already been successful in protecting unvaccinated mice, and researchers hope it could be used in humans when vaccines are unavailable. Jacob and his colleagues screened 32 frog defense peptides against an influenza strain and found that 4 of them had flu-busting abilities.
Developing antimicrobial peptides into effective drugs has been a challenge in the past, partly because enzymes in the body can break them down.
"The frogs secrete this peptide nearly certainly to combat some pathogen in [their] niche", lead researcher Joshy Jacob told Gizmodo.
Emory co-authors include senior research associate Ali Ellebedy, PhD and assistant professors Jens Wrammert, PhD and Anice Lowen, PhD.
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