Tea, red wine and blueberries may prevent bad flu
Flavonoids, compounds found in black tea, red wine and blueberries, may work with gut microbes to prevent severe flu infections.
Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis conducted a study in mice and found a particular gut microbe, called Clostridium orbiscindens, degrades flavonoids to produce a metabolite that "enhances interferon signalling".
"The metabolite is called desaminotyrosine, otherwise known as DAT," study author Dr. Ashley L. Steed stated. "When we gave DAT to mice and then infected them with influenza, the mice experienced far less lung damage than mice not treated with DAT."
The study results also indicate that their strategy is effective in staving off severe damage from flu when the interaction occurs prior to infection with the influenza virus.
Accordingly, the findings back up prior research linking flavonoids with protective properties that may help regulate the immune system to fight infections.
"Flavonoids are common in our diets, so an important implication of our study is that it's possible flavonoids work with gut microbes to protect us from flu and other viral infections. Obviously, we need to learn more, but our results are intriguing," Dr. Steed added.
Meanwhile, senior report author Dr. Thaddeus Stappenbeck cautioned that while it is beneficial to have a diet rich in flavonoids, the results show that to curb the flu people will likely need to have the right microbes in the intestine to control immune response.
Looking to the future, the academics hope to identify other gut microbes that also may use flavonoids to influence the immune system. But as those studies are planned, the researchers said it might not be a bad idea to drink black tea and eat foods rich in flavonoids before the next flu season begins
The full study results have been published in the journal Science.