A new Flu Vaccine’s in the Works, and It Ain’t Pretty

Frog slime may kill the flu virus.

[DIGEST: CNN, NBC, Smithsonian, The Independent]

A compound found in frog slime might just beat the flu virus, according to new research published in the journal Immunity.

Frogs secrete compounds in their mucus to protect them from potentially infectious bacteria and fungi. Some frogs have mucus that contains antimicrobial peptides—small molecules that can regulate the chemical activity of other molecules.

One of these frogs is a species called Hydrophylax bahuvistara, a colorful frog found in southwest India. Researchers collected slime from this species, then screened it, coming up with 32 peptides. The scientists called the peptides “urumin,” after the urumi, a flexible, whip-like sword that originated in southern India. They chemically synthesized versions of the urumin in a lab, and tested them on strains of the human flu virus.

Four strains of the peptides succeeded in killing the flu virus.

The peptides destabilized the virus by wrapping themselves around a particular flu protein called hemagglutinin, which helps the virus bind to cells in the respiratory tract.

“The virus needs this hemagglutinin to get inside our cells,” said Joshy Jacob, an associate professor in the Emory University School of Medicine’s microbiology and immunology department, which led the study. ‘”What this peptide does is it binds to the hemagglutinin and destabilizes the virus. And then it kills the virus.”

“It kind of blows them up,” continued Jacob.

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