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Biological Chemistry

Frog mucus peptide kills flu virus

Biomolecule breaks the H1 influenza virus apart without hurting human cells, making it a promising antiviral candidate

by Sarah Everts
April 24, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 17

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Credit: Sanil George & Jessica Shartouny
Credit: Sanil George & Jessica Shartouny
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Credit: David Holthausen
The peptide urumin from the skin mucus of an Indian frog kills the H1 influenza virus by breaking apart its capsid (three examples shown, top to bottom).
Credit: David Holthausen
The peptide urumin from the skin mucus of an Indian frog kills the H1 influenza virus by breaking apart its capsid (three examples shown, top to bottom).

The slimy mucus that coats the skin of an Indian frog contains peptides that destroy the H1 influenza virus, according to a team of researchers led by Joshy Jacob of Emory University. One of these flu-killing peptides appears to be harmless to human cells, making it a promising antiviral candidate to fight the flu ­(Immunity 2017, DOI: 10.1016/j.immuni.2017.03.018). The slimy surface of Hydrophylax bahuvistara and other amphibians could become a siren call for researchers searching for antimicrobial compounds. The mucus contains many molecules that protect the animals against bacterial and viral pathogens, and the slime is relatively easy to isolate: Researchers need to just give the frogs a small electric shock, collect the released mucus, and let the amphibians hop away. ­Jacob’s team focused on one 23-amino-acid peptide, which the researchers named urumin after a deadly whip sword found in the same region as the frog’s native habitat. Most antiviral drugs interfere in a biological process such as replication or infection; urumin appears to smash the viral capsid to smithereens.

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