You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone, they say. Such is the case with amphibians, which have been rapidly disappearing from the planet due to a deadly Chytrid fungus plague. But even while they fight their own fungal battles, they may hold a cure for the annual influenza outbreak we humans experience, thanks to their ability to ward off bacterial and viral infections. The research comes from Emory University School of Medicine.

The study authors explain:

We studied host defense peptides from the skin of the South Indian frog and demonstrated that one of these, which we named “urumin,” is virucidal for H1 hemagglutinin-bearing human influenza A viruses...Urumin therefore has the potential to contribute to first-line anti-viral treatments during influenza outbreaks.

The source of the helpful compound is the slime found on the skin of the South Indian frog Hydrophylax bahuvistara, pictured here.

When the flu strikes, therefore, we just might have an amphibian-sourced line of defense to ward off the dangerous viruses. But it may take some time to get urumin to the point of useful production. Gizmodo notes, "[S]cientists are now trying to figure out how to make it more stable... The researchers who led the study are hopeful that similar frog-derived molecules can be used against other viruses, such as dengue and Zika."

“This peptide works against all influenza viruses of the H1 hemagglutinin subtype because it binds specifically to a conserved piece in this protein,” lead researcher Joshy Jacob said in an interview with Gizmodo. “The peptide does not kill other flu viruses because they lack this conserved piece in hemagglutinin.”

So the compounds found in this frog specie's slime could help us figure out how to combat flu epidemics differently, giving us an additional line of defense against the annual bombardment of influenza.

The bonus is that we don't have to harvest wild frogs — and risk killing off the species for our own uses — to make the substance; it can be made synthetically. So don't detest a slimy frog — think of the frog as an amazing ally for your health.

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

Frog slime could prevent the next flu pandemic
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