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Flavonoids Found To Prevent Severe Flu

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Microbes that live in the gut don’t just digest food. They also have far-reaching effects on the immune system. Now, a new study shows that a particular gut microbe can prevent severe flu infections in mice, likely by breaking down naturally occurring compounds, called flavonoids, commonly found in foods such as black tea, red wine and blueberries.  The research, conducted in mice by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, also indicates that this strategy is effective in staving off severe damage from flu when the interaction occurs prior to infection with the influenza virus. This work also could help explain the wide variation in human responses to influenza infection.  The study is published Aug. 4 in the journal Science.  “For years, flavonoids have been thought to have protective properties that help regulate the immune system to fight infections,” said first author Ashley L. Steed, MD, PhD, an instructor in pediatrics who treats intensive care patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “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.”

From University of Washington  Photo John Vlahakis

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