Flu season, again.
Its arrival in temperate zones is being overshadowed by the deadly Ebola virus which has global health agencies in its vise.
But influenza viruses are killers too. “Worldwide, these annual epidemics are estimated to result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and about 250, 000 to 500 000 deaths”, reports the World Health Organization.
Because the viruses mutate genetically from year to year, efficacy of vaccines and other preventive agents can be limited. But the acute respiratory illness they cause and the fact that they infect the most fragile at high rates suggests that anything that bolsters the mucosal and systemic immune systems should help protect against the flu.
One recent study had researcher Jeong Ah Song and colleagues from Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea give mice either a strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus or skim milk and then introduce an influenza virus. Survival rates, lung inflammation and immune biomarkers including cytokine and secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) levels were examined.
- All of the mice in the control group died. Pneumonia was severe.
- 40% of the mice fed with L. rhamnosus… survived. Pneumonia was moderate.
- No significant changes in cytokines in both groups.
- Levels of interferon-γ and interleukin-2-, were increased in the L. rhamnosus group
The authors concluded: “These results demonstrate that orally administered L. rhamnosus … activates humoral as well as cellular immune responses, conferring increased resistance to the host against influenza virus infection.”
Read the full study here in the Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection.