One reason the emergence of H1N1, also called swine flu, has caused so much concern -- and near hysteria in some cases -- is the memory of the painful and often fatal outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) back in 2003. Over several months, this devastating viral respiratory illness, caused by a coronavirus, spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Before the disease was contained, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 8,098 people had become sick from SARS and 774 died. Although public health measures finally controlled that global outbreak, there has been no effective way to prevent or treat the breath-robbing malady should a SARS pandemic erupt -- until now. A new study shows a protein from red algae may have the ability to successfully treat SARS infections.
The research, just presented at the American Thoracic Society's 105th International Conference in San Diego, demonstrated that mice treated with the protein, dubbed Griffithsin (GRFT), had a 100 percent survival rate after exposure to the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV). However, only 30 percent of mice exposed to the disease but not treated with the algae substance survived.
The powerful anti-viral medicine in red algae
GRFT is believed to exert powerful anti-viral effects because it is able to change the shape of the sugar molecules that line the virus' envelope. This prevents the SARS virus from invading human cells and taking over the cells' reproductive machinery to replicate itself. Bottom line: with the sugar molecules disarmed, the virus is unable to cause disease.
To conduct the experiment, the scientists gave one group of mice GRFT while another group received a sham treatment. Then the lab rodents were inoculated with the SARS virus. When the research team analyzed the antiviral activity of GRFT, they discovered the mice that had not been treated with GRFT showed 20 times more plaque-forming units of virus than treated mice. Moreover, the lungs of the untreated infected mice showed extensive tissue-killing bronchitis as well as a large amount of fluid. However, the lab animals treated with GRFT showed evidence of far less severe lung damage. In addition, the mice treated with GRFT did not experience drastic weight loss. But the untreated mice lost an amazing 35 percent of their total body mass.
"While preliminary, these results are very exciting and indicate a possible therapeutic approach to future SARS or other coronaviral outbreaks," Christine Wohlford-Lenane, senior research assistant at the department of pediatrics University of Iowa and the lead author of the study, said in a statement to the media. "This indicates that not only did the GRFT stop the virus from replicating, but also prevented secondary outcomes, such as weight loss, that are associated with infection."
The University of Iowa scientists are planning future studies with GRFT. They want to find out whether mice protected from SARS by GRFT develop protective immunity against future infection. Previous research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry also suggests GRFT's virus-fighting ability could be important in the fight against the HIV virus, too.
Editor's note: NaturalNews is opposed to the use of animals in medical experiments that expose them to harm. We present these findings in protest of the way in which they were acquired. Inoculating mammals with the deadly SARS virus is a violation of medical ethics and animal welfare.