The potent antioxidants in elderberries may help tackle influenza and its symptoms, said a latest study published in the 'Journal of Functional Foods'. Elderberries, which are also known as Sambucus Nigra, the antioxidant-rich fruit is very common in Europe and North America. They are used extensively to make wines and jam. The study stated that compounds from elderberries may directly inhibit the virus's entry and replication in human cells, and can help strengthen a person's immune system to respond to the virus. The influenza virus is one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide, about 10 percent of world population is said to be affected by it. It also contributes to one million deaths annually.
For the study, researchers performed a comprehensive examination of the mechanism by which phytochemicals, compounds that positively affect health, present in elderberries could tackle influenza infections.
"What our study has shown is that the common elderberry has a potent direct antiviral effect against the flu virus. It inhibits the early stages of infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells," said Dr Golnoosh Torabian, one of the researchers involved in the study."
As part of the study, the researchers used commercially farmed elderberries. The juicy serum procured out of the berries was applied to cells before, during and after they had been infected with the influenza virus.
The findings showed that the phytochemicals from the elderberry juice were quite effective at stopping the virus from spreading and infecting the cells. Interestingly, they were even more effective at inhibiting viral propagation at later stages of the influenza cycle.
"In addition to the research, we identified that the elderberry solution also stimulated the cells to release certain cytokines, which are chemical messengers that the immune system uses for communication between different cell types to coordinate a more efficient response against the invading pathogen," explained Professor Fariba Deghani.
The team said that elderberry's antiviral activity can be attributed to its anthocyanidin compounds, phytonutrients. These compounds are also responsible for the rich purple colour of the fruit.