Saturday September 21, 2019

Food Additive in Frozen Meat, Crackers Worsens Flu, Say Researchers

The study will be presented at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics annual meeting in Orlando

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Tuna
A prospective buyer inspects the quality of a frozen tuna before the first auction of the year at the newly opened Toyosu Market, new site of Tokyo's fish market, in Tokyo, Jan. 5, 2019. VOA

A common food additive found in many products, including frozen meat, crackers and fried foods, could weaken the human immune system against flu, which accounts for 290,000-650,000 deaths globally every year, say researchers.

Besides increasing the severity of flu symptoms, the study found exposure to the compound — tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) — could reduce effectiveness of flu vaccine through its effects on T cells, a vital component of the immune system.

During the study, mice fed tBHQ-spiked diet were slower to activate both helper T cells and killer T cells, causing slower clearance of the virus.

“Our studies showed mice on a tBHQ diet had a weakened immune response to influenza (flu) infection,” said Robert Freeborn, postdoctoral candidate at the Michigan State University.

“In our mouse model, tBHQ suppressed function of helper and killer T cells. It led to more severe symptoms during a subsequent influenza infection,” Freeborn said.

A Food Store. Pixabay

When the mice were re-infected with a different but related strain of influenza, those on the tBHQ diet had a longer illness and lost more weight. This suggests that tBHQ impaired the “memory response” that typically primes the immune system to fight a second infection, Freeborn said.

tBHQ is an additive used to prevent spoilage, with a maximum allowed concentration of 200 parts per million in food products.

Since tBHQ is not always listed on ingredient labels, the best way to limit tBHQ exposure is to be conscious about food choices. A low-fat diet and less consumption of processed snacks will help reduce tBHQ consumption, he suggested.

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Annual flu shot significantly reduces the length and severity of the illness and prevents influenza infection.

The study will be presented at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics annual meeting in Orlando. (IANS)

Next Story

Scientists in Australia Use Artificial Intelligence to Develop New Vaccine Against the Flu

The key to the technology are adjuvants, which are substances that help existing therapies work better to prevent infection

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artificial intelligence, drugs
FILE - Ami-Louise Cochrane, center, receives a flu vaccination at Flinders Medical Center, in Adelaide, Australia. VOA

Scientists in Australia say they have used artificial intelligence to develop a powerful new vaccine against the flu. The team from Flinders University believe it is the first time a computer has used its own machine learning to design a new drug for use in people.

The computer’s name is Sam, or Search Algorithm for Ligands, and Australian researchers say its new flu drug is a “turbo-charged” version of existing treatments.  The key to the technology are adjuvants, which are substances that help existing therapies work better to prevent infection.

The artificial intelligence program was fed information on influenza vaccines that work as well as those that do not, and left to its own devices without any help from scientists at Flinders University.  They say it is a start of a “new era” in artificial intelligence research.

Artificial intelligence
The team from Flinders University believe it is the first time a computer has used its own machine learning to design a new drug for use in people. Pixabay

“We took existing drugs that we know work.  We took examples of drugs that do not work, or have failed and we essentially showed all of that to the A.I. program called Sam,” explains Dr. Nikolai Petrovsky, from Flinders University in Adelaide. “[It] came up with its own suggestion of what might be an effective adjuvant, which we then took and tested, and, sure enough, it worked.”

ALSO READ: Researchers Develop Artificial Intelligence Method that can Help Crops Cope with Climate Changes

A clinical trial will soon start on 240 volunteers in the United States.  It is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The World Health Organization has said the 2019 influenza season appeared to have started earlier than previous years in Australia, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand.  The disease kills many thousands of people around the world each year. More than 115,000 influenza cases have been reported in Australia and authorities say 226 people have died so far this year. (VOA)