Frog in the Throat: Frog Slime May Help Prevent Future Flu Pandemics

Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, April 19th, 2017
Could frog slime be the next defense against a flu pandemic?
 
In a study published in Immunity, investigators showed that a chemical in the mucus of South Indian frogs could kill certain strains of the influenza virus. The discovery could one day lead to the development of antiviral drugs.
 
The skin slime from the Hydrophylax bahuvistara frog contains the compound urumin, which kills bacteria and viruses.
 
Using a synthesized version of the molecule, the investigators successfully killed various strains of influenza in mice—particularly the H1 pandemic strands that infects people year-round.
 
The peptide specifically targeted the conserved stalk of H1 hemagglutinin, and it was effective at neutralizing drug-resistant H1 influenza viruses.
 
“Peptides derived from the skin of frogs have antibacterial activity,” lead author Joshy Jacob told Gizmodo. “We hypothesized some peptides might also have antiviral activity and hence we tested them against flu viruses. The frogs secrete this peptide almost certainly to combat some pathogen in [their] niche. The flu virus most likely shares a common motif with whatever the peptide is targeted to.
 
The investigators used an electron microscopy to demonstrate that the peptide physically destroyed influenza virions, and protected naïve mice from lethal influenza infection
 
“This peptide works against all influenza viruses of the H1 hemagglutinin subtype because it binds specifically to a conserved piece in this protein,” Jacob told Gizmodo. “The peptide does not kill other flu viruses because they lack this conserved piece of hemagglutinin.”
 
A drawback of the compound is that it has a short lifespan in the body, but investigators are working to try to expand that.
 
“Urumin represents a unique class of anti-influenza virucide that specifically targets the hemagglutinin stalk region, similar to [the] targeting of antibodies induced by universal influenza vaccines,” the authors wrote. “Urumin therefore has the potential to contribute to first-line antiviral treatments during influenza outbreaks.”


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