The mucus of a rare frog that lurks in the South Indian jungle could provide the basis of a powerful new class of drugs to combat influenza, scientists have said.
The bright orange tennis ball-sized Hydrophylax bahuvistara was found to contain “host defence peptides” that proved able to destroy numerous strains of human flu, whilst protecting normal cells.
Researchers are excited because the peptide showed it could bind to a protein that is identical across “dozens” of strains of the disease, increasing its potential potency as a drug.
I was almost knocked off my chair
Joshy Jacob, Emory University
People would be advised to treat the Keralan amphibian with caution, however, as three out of four of the peptides found in the mucus were found to be toxic to humans.
Scientists at Emory University named the beneficial element "urumin", which can be isolated, after the a sword with a flexible blade that snaps and bends like a whip, which comes from the same Indian province.
“It’s a natural innate immune mediator that all living organisms maintain,” said Josh Jacob, who co-authored the study at Emory University, Georgia.
“We just happened to find one that the frog makes that just happens to be effective against the H1 influenza type.”
The virus needs hemagglutinin to get inside human cells.
the peptide works by binding to the hemagglutinin, destabilizes the virus and then kills it.
"I was almost knocked off my chair," says Jacob.
"In the beginning, I thought that when you do drug discovery, you have to go through thousands of drug candidates, even a million, before you get 1 or 2 hits.
"And here we did 32 peptides, and we had 4 hits."