Fatty acids found in fish oil prevents death from influenza infected mice
Flu viruses are a major cause of death and sickness around the world, with health officials reporting in January that the flu season had officially reached epidemic level. Antiviral drugs currently do not protect the most seriously ill patients. A preliminary study this year had rated this year’s version of flu vaccine as only 62% effective.
Dr. Bruce Hirsch, MD, physician of family and geriatric medicine at North Shore University Hospital Manhasset, New York, commented to Everyday Health, “Tamiflu is the most commonly used antiviral medication right now, and it does have some benefit, but the benefit is incomplete.”
There appears to be good news on the horizon as research has found a new way to treat even the most severe cases of influenza and it centers around fish oils.
Dr. Yumiko Imai, MD, PhD, Professor of Experimental Medicine, Viral Immunity and Pulmonary physiology at the Akita University and senior author of the study comments "We have identified a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of severe influenza that is effective under conditions where known antiviral drugs fail to protect from death."
In an attempt to discover more effective drug targets for influenza, scientists have recently identified several genes and molecules that are crucial for influenza virus replication. However, until now it was not known whether naturally occurring lipids, such as those derived from omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) found in fish oils, might also be involved in influenza virus infections.
To find out Dr. Imai and colleagues screened for PUFA-derived lipids in influenza-virus-infected human lung cells. When they treated infected cells with these lipids, they found that protectin D1 (PD1) was the most effective at inhibiting the replication of viruses, including H5N1.
In addition, low levels of PD1 in the lungs of influenza-virus-infected mice were associated with severe infection and highly pathogenic viruses, such as H5N1. PD1 treatment improved the survival and pathology of severe influenza in mice, even under conditions where known antiviral drugs fail to protect from death.
The researchers write “These results identify the endogenous lipid mediator PD1 as an innate suppressor of influenza virus replication that protects against lethal influenza virus infection.”
Dr. Imai in closing stated “Our findings suggest that PD1could serve as a biomarker as well as a much needed antiviral drug for severe and lethal influenza virus infections.”
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers using laboratory rats had divided the rats into two different diet groups; one corn-based feed and corn-based feed with fish oil for two weeks. At the end of the two weeks the rats were exposed to a strain of influenza called Puerto Rico flu.
The rats who received the diet with fish oil had less inflammation in the lungs and had fewer T cells than the rats on the corn-based feed.
If you get the flu you may want to consider adding fish oil to your diet.
This new study is published today in Cell.