A recent study conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine has found something really interesting. A team of scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine led by Dr. Thaddeus Stappenback has managed to identify a bacterium (Clostridium orbiscindens) which can breakdown blueberries and use some of their nutrients to fight infections such as the flu.
In order to test their theory, the team examined numerous species of gut bacteria until they discovered that C. Orbiscindens can breakdown flavonoids from blueberries (which can also be found in red wine and black tea) and produce a metabolite known as desaminotyrosine (DAT) which is involved in interferon signaling, a key signaling factor for the immune system. The metabolite was then injected into mice infected with the flu, and the results were stunning. “Once we administered the influenza virus and DAT to the mice, they experienced less lung damage than the mice not treated with the metabolite,” Dr. Stappenback said. “Both groups developed the same viral loads, but the damage has been significantly different.”
The microbes in the mice treated with DAT didn’t destroy the virus, but kept both the lung tissue and immune system unharmed. Of course, further research on the matter is required before the team identifies the exact mechanism behind the metabolite. However, the study is important from another perspective and shows that we can use certain compounds to protect the immune system from viral damage. The scientists are hoping for human clinical trials in the near future, and also hope that DAT can be used to lessen the effect of influenza on our system.
As co-author Ashley Steed says, “The strategy doesn’t target the virus, but the immune response instead. This could prove valuable, as science is currently dealing with big challenges in the treatment of influenza with therapies and vaccines,” she concluded.
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