A recent article featured in FASEB Journal shows that antioxidants, largely found in plant-based foods, might be H1N1 influenza’s Achilles heel, preventing H1N1 virus to invade and colonize our lungs. In addition, the research conducted by Sadis Matalon and colleagues shows that antioxidants can help in the treatment of H1N1 influenza.

The researchers discovered that H1N1 virus contains a protein called M2, which destroys or damages the epithelial cells of our lungs by removing liquid from inside, promoting the early stages of pneumonia and other lung problems.
Influenza A virions (Credit: CDC/F. A. Murphy)

In order to make this discovery, they conducted the experiment in three steps. First, they injected the lung protein alone inside frog eggs to measure its function. Second, they injected both the M2 protein from H1N1 virus and the lung protein inside frog eggs and found that the H1N1 virus M2 protein caused the lung protein function to decrease significantly. By means of molecular biology techniques, scientists isolated the segment of the H1N1 virus M2 protein responsible for the damage to the lung protein and were able to demonstrate that without this segment, the H1N1 virus was unable to damage the lung protein. Third, an intact, full H1N1 virus M2 protein and the lung protein were then re-injected into frog eggs along with antioxidant drugs. This also prevented H1N1 virus M2 protein from damaging the lung protein. When these experiments were repeated using human lung cells, the results were exactly the same.

"Although vaccines will remain the first line of intervention against the flu for a long time to come, this study opens the door for entirely new treatments geared toward stopping the virus after you're sick," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal, "and as Thanksgiving approaches, this discovery is another reason to drink red wine to your health."