【By Chen Wei-hwa 陳惟華 Fri, Sep 25, 2009】
The A(H1N1) novel influenza virus, known as swine flu, emerged from the super hotbed of new virus strains — dirty, crowded and dark pig farms. The new variant virus is a mutation resulting from the recombination in pigs of genetic material from four varieties of the influenza A virus. It can be passed very quickly from one person to another — four times faster than other viruses — and it has so far spread to 188 countries, making it the most prevalent strain of influenza in the world today.
Ordinary seasonal influenza seldom causes severe illness, but this novel strain can directly infect and attack the lungs, causing fulminating (extremely acute) pneumonia even in healthy individuals. When this happens, patients will experience severe respiratory failure. They have to be put on a respirator for a long time, and may even die.
Luckily 30 percent of people infected with novel A (H1N1) will not exhibit symptoms. The key factor is how many cells get infected by the virus.
Influenza viruses infect cells in the respiratory tract. The first step in infection is when the virus uses hemagglutinin on its surface like a key to open sialic galactose molecules on glycoprotein receptors on the cell walls, which are like locks to the door of the cell. Only then can the virus merge into the interior of the cell to replicate and multiply.
An article in July’s Virology confirmed that the influenza A virus causes lethal pneumonia by invading via receptors for advanced glycation end products on cell walls, as shown by the fact that “knockout” mice — which have had a gene switched off so that their cells don’t have this kind of receptor — are less likely to die of pneumonia when infected by the influenza A virus.
In June, the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry published an article from Keio University in Japan explaining how a kind of alkylated protein fragment (peptide) selected from plant phages can bind with sialic galactose molecules on receptors on cell walls and so inhibit influenza viruses from infecting the cells. However, similar peptides that are not alkylated cannot inhibit infection.
In September, California-based biotechnology company NexBio reported at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in
that its new drug Fludase can prevent seasonal influenza from infecting cells in mice, and is also effective against the novel influenza virus and against viruses that are resistant to the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu). San Francisco
Fludase binds onto cells’ sialic acid receptors, preventing viruses from getting through the gateway of the cell, so that they cannot spread and infect neighboring cells. Because the drug acts on the cell rather than the virus, viruses are less likely to become resistant to it.
This new protein-based drug may well contain the above-mentioned alkaline peptides. However, it must be tested for safety in humans before it can go on the market. It is worth noting that alkaline peptides are found in plant-based foods and drinks.
In July, the Journal of the American Diatetic Association published a paper stating that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets” are healthful and nutritionally adequate, and appear to aid in the prevention and/or treatment of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases as well as cancers. This is because plants contain plenty of natural alkaline peptides and balanced antioxidants, which are essential nutrients for the human body.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that around 30 percent of
’s population will be infected with the novel A(H1N1) influenza when it reaches the peak infection period. It will be very hard for people to avoid contact with the virus. Taiwan
In addition to frequent hand washing and wearing surgical masks, the most effective way of protecting oneself is to eat at least five servings of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables a day, as recommended by the Bureau of Health Promotion.
Even if novel influenza viruses come in contact with one’s respiratory tract, the presence in the body of natural plant-based alkaline peptides will make the virus unable to open the lock to cells in one’s lungs, so it will not be able to infect a lot of lung cells and it will not lead to fulminating pneumonia.
Research done in
has shown that the number of people infected with novel influenza in each province bears a 99 percent correlation to the number of intensive piggeries in the same province. In Canada , where there are 2.4 times as many pigs as humans, residents are three times as likely to be hospitalized and 3.7 times as likely to die from swine flu than the Canadian average. Manitoba
So I advise everyone to eat more fruit and vegetables and less meat as an effective way of improving one’s resistance to viruses, even when they mutate again to create new flu strains.
As well as fighting disease and keeping people healthy, a vegetarian diet can help reduce the great number of animals kept in pens under conditions that greatly increase the chances of virus mutation. It can reduce carbon and methane emissions, protect the environment and check global warming and the natural disasters it causes. Then all living things can live peacefully together in a healthy, happy world.
If you want to fight the epidemic, your dinner plate is the right place to start.
Chen Wei-hwa is an associate professor of medicine at the
TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG
原文刊載於 台北時報 社論