22 Apr 2017

Science news: Fighting flu with frogs

From This Way Up, 12:45 pm on 22 April 2017
Hylarana malabarica

Hylarana malabarica Photo: (By David V. Raju - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

A chemical derived from the skin of a frog is showing promise in the battle against the influenza virus.

David Holthausen from Emory University in Georgia and his colleagues, writing in the journal Immunity this week, revealed the results of tests conducted using a molecule called urumin.

This is secreted onto the skin of hydrophylax bahuvistara, a recently discovered species of frog native to southern India, as a way of defending against microbial threats.

Urumin was the only one of the 32 molecules the team tested that was able to cut up and deactivate the flu virus without harming human blood cells, Dr Chris Smith of The Naked Scientists tells This Way Up's Simon Morton.

"At the moment the researchers do not know precisely how urumin works, but microscope studies show that contact causes viral particles to literally disintegrate," Dr Smith said. 

"The next steps will involve deducing exactly how urumin is working. And what's exciting is that it appears to be killing flu in a way that is entirely novel to science. So once the mechanism is understood, it is likely to reveal new therapeutic avenues that researchers can pursue to make a range of novel anti-influenza drugs."