Kiss that frog, at least if it is the Indian frog Hydrophylax bahuvistara, because the mucus that coats it contains the peptide, urumin, which could prevent the flu, and might even cure it. On Tuesday, researchers from Emory University in Atlanta along with researchers from the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology in India published their findings about the potential flu preventative, or cure, in the journal Immunity.
The New York Post reported that the slimy mucus coating of the Indian frogs was successful at curing “mice of fatal doses of the flu.” The mucus, or the peptides in it, could be used, one day, as a preventative medication or even as a cure for the flu in humans, according to the researchers.
Peptides “are short chains of amino acids.” Mashable reported that these chains of amino acids “are the building blocks of proteins.”
H1 flu viruses are targetted by the urumin peptide in the mucus of the frogs. The influenza A virus has several subtypes, and H1 is one of them. H1 is also one of the type flu strains that has an effect on humans. H1N1, or swine flu, is one of the types of H1 flu viruses that urumin was effective against.
The mucus coating some frogs can be deadly to humans, but the researchers from Emory University and the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology in India tested out urumin and their findings showed it “was nontoxic to human cells.” The team of researchers had 15 of the frogs from southern India at their disposal to collect mucus from. The Hydrophylax bahuvistara frogs, which are approximately the size of tennis balls, were discovered just two years ago. According to The Hindu, the frogs were found in the southern India state of “Kerala.”
The researchers found that using electricity to mildly stimulate the frogs was the key in the collection of mucus from the colorful amphibians. Mashable reported that the team of researchers from the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology in India were the first to test out the disease-fighting properties of the urumin peptide found in the mucus of the frogs.
Their goal was to isolate peptides from various local frogs and find out if they had any benefits fighting bacterial diseases in humans. The focus of the researchers from Emory University was to discover if the peptides in the mucus of some species of frogs could successfully combat viruses in humans.
The researchers from Emory University in Atlanta tested out 32 different peptides found in frog mucus against the H1 strain of influenza. The result was that they discovered flu-fighting abilities with four of the peptides they analyzed.
Three of the peptides, while effective in fighting against bacteria and viruses, were toxic to humans. The fourth one, urumin, was non-toxic. Urumin is derived from “urumi,” a type of whip-like flexible sword, or blade, used in ancient times in India.
Urumin was different from the other peptides they studied, which fought against both bacteria and viruses “by punching holes in cell membranes.” Doing this “makes them toxic to the cells of mammals.” Urumin, by contrast, appeared to act by disrupting “the integrity of the flu virus.” The Hindu reported that is was able to neutralize literally “dozens of strains” of the flu, including “the 1934 archival viruses” that killed millions of people around the world.
While some frogs, like the Hydrophylax bahuvistara species, can be considered “beautiful,” many people are turned off by their slimy coating and do not want to touch them, let alone give them a kiss, or a lick. The biological reason why frogs are coated with mucus is that it offers them protection from fungi and bacteria. This sort of protection could, one day in the near future, be used by humans, in their war against the flu. The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement that the two flu subtypes currently circulating in the world are H1 and H3.
More research and further studies are necessary before medicine containing urumin might become available to consumers. However, the peptide, found in the mucus of Hydrophylax bahuvistara frogs in India, could become a vital tool in preventing and possibly even curing H1 strains of influenza. Currently, the researchers from Emory University are trying to discover if other peptides found in frog mucus could combat against Zika and dengue, which are both mosquito-borne viruses.
By John Samuels