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Antioxidants prevent lung damage from H1N1 flu protein

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

New research shows that antioxidants might prevent damage to the lungs from H1N1 flu. Scientists from Alabama are hopeful that new research has found H1N1 flu’s weakness with antioxidants, found in plant based foods.

"The recent outbreak of H1N1 influenza and the rapid spread of this strain across the world highlights the need to better understand how this virus damages the lungs and to find new treatments," said Sadis Matalon, co-author of the study. "Additionally, our research shows that antioxidants may prove beneficial in the treatment of flu."

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The scientists were able to show that lung damage from H1N1 flu happens through the H1N1 M2 protein that attacks the epithelial cells that line the respiratory tract. When damage to the epithelium occurs, fluid collects, setting the stage for pneumonia and respiratory failure.

The researchers performed three separate experiments, using frog eggs to study M2 proteins and lung proteins. They first measured the effect of lung protein. Then they looked at lung protein in combination with M2 protein – they found that with M2 protein from the virus, lung protein was damaged. They then removed the segment of M2 protein that caused the damage. The scientists found that the virus could no longer damage lung protein. Lastly, they reinjected lung protein and M2 protein into the frog eggs, along with drugs known to remove oxidants. The antioxidants prevented the ability of the M2 protein to cause damage. They repeated the exact same sequence using human lung cells, and obtained the exact same results.

The researchers, through a series of experiments, found that antioxidant drugs protected the lungs from damage from the M2 protein in the H1N1 virus. The findings are published in the FASEB journal. The journal’s Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief says, "Although vaccines will remain the first line of intervention against the flu for a long time to come, this study opens the door for entirely new treatments geared toward stopping the[H1N1] virus after you're sick, and as Thanksgiving approaches, this discovery is another reason to drink red wine to your health." Antioxidants may be a weakness of the H1N1 flu virus.