New Antivirals Produced From Bananas Able To Fight Deadly Flu And Might Also Combat Other Viruses Including Coronaviruses.
Unknown to most common people, what keeps most infectious disease researchers busy are not infamous viruses
like Ebola. Instead,the influenza virus
, commonly known as the flu
, continues to be a clear and present danger to humanity.
Dr David Markovitz, M.D., Professor of internal medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Michigan Medicine told Thailand Medical
is a huge problem, as the virus
sickens or kills millions of people each year. A new pandemic along the lines of the 1918 Spanish flu
has the potential to kill millions here and abroad."
According to WHO and US CDC, more than 640,000 people worldwide died from the flu virus
in the 2018 seasons.
Dr David Markovitz and an extensive team of collaborators have worked for years on broad-spectrum antiviral
drugs developed from, of all things, bananas
A recent research paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, by Dr Markovitz, first author Dr Evelyn Coves-Datson, a M.D., Ph.D. student, Dr Akira Ono, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology and their team have shown that an engineered compound based on a banana
lectin, a protein called H84T
, has real potential for clinical use against influenza
In research experiments, more than 80% of mice exposed to a form of influenza
that is typically fatal were able to survive the disease after receiving an injection of the protein, even up to 72 hours after exposure.
The research team also provides early evidence that the compound is safe. A downside of naturally occurring banana
lectin, which can cause inflammation by inappropriately activating the immune system wasn't present in mice given H84T
Furthermore, because H84T
is a protein, there was concern that the body would recognize it as foreign and develop antibodies against it, thereby neutralizing it or causing harm. The team found that while mice did develop antibodies against H84T
, they didn't appear to be adversely affected by them.
The new compound works because it targets a sugar called high mannose, which is present on the outside of certain viruses
but not on most healthy cells. "We were able to show that H84T
blocks the ability of the influenza virus
to fuse with structures termed endosomes in the human cell, a key step in infection," he explains. Doing so disabled their ability to replicate and wreak havoc.
Significantly, this mechanism of action, binding of high mannose sugars on the surface of viruses
, means that H84T
is effective not only against influenza
, but also against Ebola, HIV, measles, MERS, a new deadly viral illness that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, SARS and all other
What is more promising is that the compound works where Tamiflu
), the current standard therapy for severe flu, has failed. "We've also shown that there may be a synergistic effect between H84T
," says Dr Markovitz.
The research team hopes to do more research with the compound in humans in the hopes of getting it to market. "We envision the government potentially stockpiling it in the event of a pandemic." However, he says, "there are many difficulties to commercialization. Pharmaceutical economics do not seem to favor the development of antivirals
or antibacterials for one-time usage, which is a huge problem."
Reference : A molecularly engineered antiviral banana lectin inhibits fusion and is efficacious against influenza virus infection in vivo. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.191515211