Researchers studying the healing properties of a traditional Japanese pickle have learned that bacteria found in food can prevent flu. It turns out the pickled turnip dish known as suguki contains immune-boosting Lactobacillus brevis. Mice that have been exposed to a flu virus were fed suguki in a study that appears in the journal, Letters in Applied Microbiology.
Lead researcher, Ms Naoko Waki of Japanese food company Kagome Co Ltd said: Our results show that when a particular strain of Lactobacillus brevis is eaten by mice, it has protective effects against influenza virus infection.
Independent research is clearly needed, but suguki enthusiasts believe this lactofermented food has protective powers. These effects, however, have not been tested in humans. According to Ms Waki human clinical trials using a probiotic drink containing Lactobacillus brevis KB290 bacteria are underway and scientists believe that foods containing them may turn out to be the next superfood.
What it is about this particular bacteria that gives them this amazing property is not known, though studies show it is remarkably tolerant to stomach juices, which are too acidic for many bacteria. This is largely due to a protective layer of sugars called exopolysaccharides.
We know that exopolysaccharides have immune boosting effects in other similar bacteria, so we wonder …