Enter the hydrophylax bahuvistara. The relatively recently discovered species of fungoid frog, dubbed the widespread fungoid frog, was first catalogued by scientists just two years ago in central India.
Study authors gathered slime from the frog by applying electrical shocks. Next, they tested 32 peptides from the slime against various flu strains. A whopping four of those peptides combated the flu successfully, prompting one of the scientists to tell Phys.org it knocked him off his chair.
But at least one issue remained: three of the four flu-fighting peptides killed red blood cells while taking out the flu.
That left just one lone peptide scientists dubbed the urumi molecule. It killed the invaders while leaving the good cells intact.
In Sanskrit, urumi translates to “curling blade,” and is the word for a metallic weapon with sharp, string-like blades attached to a hilt that can be very dangerous to wield. Perfecting its use is still practiced as a martial art in the Indian state of Kerala.
A number of issues pertaining to urumi’s medical utility remain. For one, it does not stay stable in the body for very long, which could inhibit its effectiveness. And there are questions about how study results can be translated into a new antiviral drug, especially as it can take years for the FDA to approve such breakthroughs.
Nonetheless, there were a series of positive lessons researchers were able to distill, including that the molecule can be “synthesized chemically, so we don’t need to harvest fleets of frogs to extract large quantities of the stuff,” researcher Joshy Jacobs said.
Tackling the flu isn’t just a matter of feeling better in the winter or staying healthy to avoid using up those vacation days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu and pneumonia killed more people in the US in 2014 than suicide.
In 2009, 47 percent of St. Charles East High School’s 2,200 students reported being absent due to the spread of H1N1, causing the school to close for almost a week, the Chicago Tribune reported.