The study, scheduled to be published in the November issue of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, shows anti-oxidants -- the same substances found in plant-based foods such as apples, grapes and strawberries -- might hold the key in preventing the flu virus from wreaking havoc on the lungs.
"The recent outbreak of H1N1 influenza and the rapid spread of this strain across the world highlights the need to better understand how this virus damages the lungs and to find new treatments," study co-author Sadis Matalon said in a statement. "Additionally, our research shows that anti-oxidants may prove beneficial in the treatment of flu."
Matalon and colleagues showed the flu virus damages lungs through its M2 protein, which attacks the cells that line the inner surfaces of the lungs -- epithelial cells. Specifically, the M2 protein disrupts lung epithelial cells' ability to remove liquid from inside the lungs, setting the stage for pneumonia and other lung problems.
"Although vaccines will remain the first line of intervention against the flu for a long time to come, this study opens the door for entirely new treatments geared toward stopping the virus after you're sick," Dr. Gerald Weissmann, editor in chief of the FASEB Journal said, "and as Thanksgiving approaches, this discovery is another reason to drink red wine to your health."