Slimy Frog Might Be a Flu Fighter

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Researchers looked at secretions from the skin of a south Indian frog called Hydrophylax bahuvistara.

Researchers are likely to continue to study urumin and make sure it is effective and safe enough to be tested in humans.

The scientists at Emory University have been working on the discovery of an antimicrobial peptide based in the skin of a specific frog species - the hydrophylax bahuvistara - and its potential use against the flu. "When the skin is injured or the frog is alarmed, they release large amounts of the peptides to protect the skin".

Made up of short chains of amino acids, peptides are essentially mini-proteins, and they perform a variety of functions in the body.

Dr Jacob's team are now searching for more frog-derived peptides that are effective against other viruses, including dengue fever and Zika.

One of the peptides in the frogs' skin mucus is called urumin. It does not affect other flu strains, such as the H3N2 flu and influenza B viruses that also circulate.

The new finding, published in the journal Immunity, suggests that the peptides represent a resource for antiviral drug discovery as well.

The researchers found four peptides, or small molecules, within the mucus that were able to kill off flu viruses in the lab.

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Dr. Jacob and his colleagues from Emory University and the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology in Kerala, India, named this peptide 'urumin, ' after the urumi, a sword with a flexible blade that snaps and bends like a whip, which comes from the same Indian province, Kerala, as the frog.

H1 is one of the many subtypes of the influenza A virus, one of three strains that affect humans. This is also the structure that gives flu viruses the "H" in their names, and it's the part that many flu vaccines aim for.

Jacob said the peptide was not effective against seasonal flu viruses that mutate rapidly. Usually, antiviral peptides that latch onto an HA simply block HA and keep the virus from invading cells with it, but viruses treated with urumin were destroyed. One peptide, which Emory researchers named urumin, can physicially destroy H1 influenza virions.

Since flu viruses from human beings can not infect frogs, these urumin-producing frogs have an advantage that we humans do not have as regards fending off the flu virus.

The study said: "Urumin is a unique class of anti-influenza viricide specifically targeting haemagglutinin". Frogs, however, are of interest to researchers as a source of these peptides because it is relatively easy to isolate peptides that are found in their mucus.

"As an amphibian biologist concerned about the loss of amphibian species around the globe, it is important to note that they may hold important secrets useful for human medicine and they should be preserved", she said.

Flu viruses are hard to combat, because they mutate and change so rapidly.

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