Apr 4, 2013

Microbes, good and bad, and fish oil vs flu

This is a general post linking you (the reader) to two different articles that I read recently. One of them was a specific article about flu (viral flu) and the ability of fish oil in helping us fight flu.

I read the first one in the Chemical and Engineering News magazine, a publication of the American Chemical Society. Excerpts reproduced below (hoping for a fair use pass here acs!)
Influenza disables and kills people, and current drugs don’t work well in late-stage and severe cases. A Japan-based team now describes a lipid derivative that could inspire a new way to stop the virus, possibly even in late-stage and critical cases. Such a drug is still far from reality, but the findings point to a day when flu might be fought more effectively.........Polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oils are the core structures of lipid cell-signaling compounds such as protectins, which exert powerful anti-inflammatory effects in response to tissue injury. But scientists did not know what role protectins play in flu. 
Now, biological informatics and experimental therapeutics professor Yumiko Imai of Akita University, in Japan, ......... report that that the protectin D1 isomer 10S,17S-dihydroxydocosahexaenoic acid blocks replication of the flu virus by inhibiting export of viral genomic material from host-cell nuclei (Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.02.027). They found the compound by screening a lipid library. 
.......When the team administered additional protectin and an antiviral drug to mice with flu, symptoms and survival improved. .... conclude that the protectin D1 isomer could thus “serve as a novel antiviral drug as well as a biomarker for severe and lethal influenza virus infections.”
The second one is about an emerging viewpoint in the research community about microbes- one that does not treat them as sworn enemies alone. I am glad this viewpoint is garnering some traction in the microbiology community now as I personally had believed for a long time in becoming adapted to microbes rather than trying to keep our surroundings sterile and fail at it. This personal view of mine had been reinforced by some of my friends' opinions as well as some discussion in the scientific community (notably here: last year and here (NW study). There is also a general ongoing debate about the excessive use of antibacterial soaps (to be cited).

The recent psu research news article discusses a opinion/hypothesis of Dr. Harvill on this subject. You can read the interview and discussion here.  (full link below the snippet).

Researchers have historically focused on microbes in the body as primarily pathogens that must be fought, said Eric Harvill, professor of microbiology and infectious disease in the College of Agricultural Sciences. However, he said that recent evidence of the complex interaction of the body with microbes suggests a new interpretation of the relationship.
"Now we are beginning to understand that the immune system interacts with far more beneficial bacteria than pathogens," said Harvill. "We need to re-envision what the true immune system really is."


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