Bananas are a good source of a wide range of vitamins and minerals, they can help battle depression, ward off muscle cramps, lower blood pressure and protect against heart attack.
Until recently, that’s all bananas were; it was recently discovered that bananas could provide a new weapon against viruses.
According to a recently published study by Cell, an international team of scientists, a protein found in bananas known as lectin,or BanLec, is being transformed into a medication that may someday be used to fight viral infections and diseases.
This “wonder drug” can disarm and kill off a wide variety of aggressive viruses – including hepatitis C, flu and AIDS. BanLec works by clinging to sugar molecules found of the surface of a portion of the world’s deadliest viruses and keeps these out of cells, preventing infection.
However, when scientists isolated the protein for therapeutic trials, BanLec was shown to also cause irritation and inflammation, so an international team concentrated on the protein and identified the part that brought about those side effects.
With some genetic tinkering, they have created a new version of BanLec called H84T –tested on mice – which maintained the proteins anti-viral properties without the unwanted immune response of irritation and inflammation.
Writing in the journal Cell, the group says it could be one of the first broad-spectrum antiviral agents to treat an assortment of viruses and infections, including HIV, hepatitis and even the common avian influenza bug.
Co-senior author David Markovitz, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, cautions that you can’t get the benefits of BanLec by eating a horde of bananas.
Markovitz says the new and improved version, a modified adaptation of the chemical found in the fruit, of BanLec must be injected.
Initially, Markovitz says, the banana protein was being researched as a microbicide, an agent that women can use before sex as a cream or gel to protect them against HIV infection.
In any case, it was shown to disarm a number of viruses, which then essentially wither away since they are not able to infect cells.
The sugar molecule that BanLec harnesses offers an interesting and unique strategy for fighting viruses, one that researchers say could be used to develop other antiviral medications.
The scientists believe the drug may even work on Ebola, as all of these viruses are covered in similar sugar molecules that BanLec clings to.
As of right now, Markovitz says there are no plans to conduct human clinical trials. And several more years of research must be conducted before BanLec can be tested in humans.
It is hoped the new medicine will become a vital ‘broad spectrum antiviral’ that could protect humanity from some of the most vicious diseases.