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Oral exposure to anti-oxidant glutathione could help prevent flu infections

Emory University scientists reported today at the Experimental Biology 2000 meeting in San Diego that glutathione, a naturally occurring anti-oxidant compound, could help prevent infection by the influenza virus if administered directly to the tissues lining the mouth and upper airway. The scientists suggested that glutathione concentrated in a lozenge or spray might be the most effective way to use the compound as a flu preventive.

Glutathione, which occurs naturally in a variety of foods, has been shown in research studies to reduce cellular damage by reactive oxygen from a variety of cancer causing agents, including ionizing radiation and environmental carcinogens. Studies by Dr. Jones and his colleagues on the potential role of dietary glutathione, however, have previously found that the body does not appear to use the compound on a systemic basis to ward off disease.

While studying the role of glutathione as an anti-cancer agent, the Emory scientists discovered that one of the enzymes that uses glutathione to detoxify cancer-causing chemicals and oxidants is deposited in the mucous layer lining the mouth and nose, thus providing an extracellular barrier to toxic chemicals. This led them to consider a possible role for glutathione as an anti-flu protectant.

The flu virus is normally released from infected cells as an inactive particle. To infect another cell, it must be activated by having one of its proteins cleaved (split into two pieces) by a protease enzyme. Proteases, along with proteins that normally inhibit their activation, are present in the fluid that lines the epithelial cells (the cells that line the mouth, upper airways and intestine). Scientists have found through studies in mice that viral infections result in oxidative responses that inactivate natural protease inhibitors, thus enhancing viral activation. They also have found that activation of the virus particles could be controlled by oxidation reducti
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Contact: Holly Korschun
hkorsch@emory.edu
404-727-3990
Emory University Health Sciences Center
16-Apr-2000


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