For people who aren’t huge fans of flu shots, scientists have a perverse yet effective alternative to suggest: snorting frog slime. No, it won’t make anyone trip (that’s licking toads.) However, there’s a component in the mucus secreted by South Indian frogs that kills the H1 subtype of influenza viruses, researchers have discovered. So it’s still a pretty good time.
So how do these amphibians attack the virus? Hydrophylax bahuvistara, the frogs in question, produce slime complete with “host defense peptides” that defend them against bacteria. The research, set to be published in the journal Immunity, suggests that these peptides could be utilized for antiviral drugs as well.
Peptides are short chains of amino acids that act as the building blocks of proteins. Some antibacterial peptides often work by punching holes in cell membranes, which makes them toxic to people. However, one of the antiviral peptides researchers found in the frogs was not like this, and instead disrupted the integrity of the virus. The decided to name this peptide urumin, after an Indian sword called “urumi.” Probably because it fights the flu, but more likely, because it’s sick as hell.
When delivered intranasally, urumin protected mice from H1 strains. It didn’t, however, defend from such other strains as H3N2. Still, it’s fascinating. Rather than replace current influenza vaccines, authors of the study say they hope this resource will be helpful if there’s ever a new pandemic strain, or for any other cases where typical flu vaccines aren’t readily available. In other words, don’t expect frogs to be pushed at the local CVS anytime soon.