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Eating Pickles May Help Prevent Flu Infection

Update Date: Nov 05, 2013 07:13 PM EST

Forget painful flu shots, pickles may help protect people against the flu virus. A new study reveals that bacteria in Japanese pickles may help protect people from getting the flu.

Researchers assessed the immune-boosting powers of Lactobacillus brevis from Suguki, a popular pickled turnip dish in Japan, in mice exposed to the flu virus.

"Our results show that when a particular strain of Lactobacillus brevis is eaten by mice, it has protective effects against influenza virus infection," lead researcher Naoko Waki of KAGOME CO., LTD. in Japan said in a news release.

Some researchers have cited the pickled turnip's protective powers. However it is still not known whether the same effects will be seen in humans.

Scientists are now conducted human clinical trials on a probiotic drink containing Lactobacillus brevis KB290 bacteria. They believe that foods containing these bacteria may turn out to be the next super food.

Researchers are still trying to figure out how the bacteria derive their virus-killing property.  They note that the bacterium is very tolerant to stomach juices because of their protective layer of sugars called exopolysaccharides.

"We know that exopolysaccharides have immune boosting effects in other similar bacteria, so we wonder if the exopolysaccharides of KB290 are responsible for the effects we see," Waki added.

Waki and her team explain that the bacteria increase the production of immune system molecules in the body and boosts activity to destroy virus infected cells. The latest study revealed that the bacteria prevented infection by the H1N1 flu.

The findings are published in the journal Letters in Applied Microbiology.

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