Scientists Prove That Special Japanese Pickle Prevents Flu Infection

First Posted: Nov 06, 2013 07:10 AM EST

A team of scientists in a breakthrough finding have identified a new way to fight flu, which affects millions of Americans every year.

The preventive treatment comes from a popular Japanese dish 'Suguki' - pickled turnip that experts believe carries bacteria that boost a person's immunity against the virus. Researchers say that the discovery shows that certain foods can tackle the virus and fight flu.

Scientists identified bacteria called 'Lactobacillus brevis' in the traditional Japanese pickle that can prevent flu.

The study researchers are already carrying out human clinical trials using a probiotic drink that contains Lactobacillus brevis KB290 bacteria. The development of this comes after a British expert claimed that UK is facing the worst winter flu toll for years leading to the death of nearly 4,000 people.

To test the effect of Lactobacillus brevis, researchers at Kagome Company conducted an experiment on mice that were exposed to a flu virus. The researchers noticed that the bacteria enhanced the production of not just flu-related antibodies but also the immune system molecules IFN-α.

They found that the bacteria were able to prevent the H1N1 swine flu infection, which is the highly contagious flu. The scientists also believe that the same could also protect against other viral infections including deadly H7N9 flu that recently emerged in China.

Lead researcher Naoko Waki of KAGOME CO., LTD. in Japan said in a statement, "Our results show that when a particular strain of Lactobacillus brevis is eaten by mice, it has protective effects against influenza virus infection."

Suguki enthusiasts had already highlighted the protective powers of the superfood but it was never scientifically proven.

It is still unknown what gives the bacteria the ability to fight flu. Researchers said that the key might lie in the bacteria's protective layer of sugars called exopolysaccharides.

"We know that exopolysaccharides have immune boosting effects in other similar bacteria, so we wonder if the exopolysaccharides of KB290 are responsible for the effects we see," said Ms Waki. Further studies will be undertaken to investigate this.

The findings are documented in the SfAM journal, Letters in Applied Microbiology.

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