Scientists are reporting that the mucus lining the stomachs of pigs could be a long-sought, abundant source of “mucins” being considered for use as broad-spectrum anti-viral agents to supplement baby formula and for use in personal hygiene and other consumer products to protect against a range of viral infections. Their study appears in ACS’ journal
In the report, Katharina Ribbeck and colleagues point out that mucus, which coats the inside of the nose, mouth and vagina, is the immune system’s first line of defense. The slimy secretion traps disease-causing microbes before they can cause infection.
However, under certain conditions viruses are able to penetrate this infection barrier, which compromises the protective function of native mucus.
Here, we find that isolated porcine gastric mucin polymers, key structural components of native mucus, can protect an underlying cell layer from infection by small viruses such as human papillomavirus (HPV), Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV), HIV (which causes AIDS) or a strain of influenza A virus.
That has led to consideration of mucin, the main component of mucus, for use as an anti-viral agent in a variety of
However, existing sources of mucins, such as breast milk, cannot provide industrial-sized quantities. Large amounts of mucus exist in the lining of pigs’ stomachs, and the authors set out to determine if pig mucus — already used as a component of artificial saliva to treat patients with “dry mouth,” or xerostomia — has the same anti-viral
They found that pig mucus is effective at blocking a range of viruses, from strains of influenza to the human papilloma virus, which is associated with cervical and oral cancer. They report that pig mucins could be added to toothpastes, mouthwashes, wound ointments and genital lubricants to protect against viral infections. “We envision porcine gastric mucins to be promising antiviral components for future biomedical applications,” the report
The authors acknowledge the National Institutes of Health and the German Academic Exchange Service
Mucin biopolymers as broad-spectrum antiviral agents