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Japanese Turnip Pickle has Flu-Preventing Bacteria

Nov 06, 2013 07:56 AM EST

Bacteria found in the traditional Japanese pickle 'Suguki' can prevent flu, researchers have found.

The beneficial bacteria, Lactobacillus brevis, play an important role in the production of several food products such as yogurt and sauerkraut. Certain strains of L. brevis are also present in wine and beer. Previous researches have showed that the bacterium promotes a healthy human gut.

In the current study, researchers led by Ms Naoko Waki KAGOME CO., LTD. in Japan, found that the bacteria present in Suguki prevented study mice from developing flu.

"Our results show that when a particular strain of Lactobacillus brevis is eaten by mice, it has protective effects against influenza virus infection," Waki said in a new release.

But, what is Suguki?

Suguki is a type of pickle made from turnips. An article by the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies describes its taste as "plain and a little bit salty, with a mild acid flavor." The pickle is made in the month of November.

People consuming Suguki have often claimed that it has many health benefits. However, no clinical study backed the idea.

Researchers are currently trying to find whether drinks containing Lactobacillus brevis KB290 bacteria prevent infections.

The team isn't sure how the bacteria manage to lower flu-infection risk. One of the reasons might be that the bacteria have 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," said Ms Waki.

The bacteria could probably be increasing levels of immune system molecules that in turn, help fight flu, researchers said.

In the study, the bacteria protected mice from H1N1 flu and the research team is optimistic they could help the body fight other viral infections such as the deadly H7N9 flu.

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