News & Blog

With flu season on the horizon, people are thinking about scheduling their annual shot (if they haven’t already). Vaccination can boost your natural immune response and reduce illness by about 40% to 60%, depending on how well the vaccine matches the specific flu virus spreading. Vaccination may also protect the people around you who may be more vulnerable to serious flu illness, helping to develop herd immunity in a community.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent viral illness, but could the antiviral qualities of seaweed help to further curtail the spread of the flu? We’ve talked about how seaweed extracts have contributed to everything from active antivirals in virus treatments to hand sanitizers. Here’s what the research has suggested about its antiviral capabilities.

What Treatments Need to Fight Influenza

Influenza A and B are part of a family of viruses that have an outer membrane, also called an envelope, which fuses with the host’s cells to insert its genome, commandeer the cell’s functions, and reproduce like crazy. These and other enveloped viruses are tenacious in the pursuit of replication and, thanks to their shared membrane, have some clear advantages:

  • They can hide antigens, the toxins that bind with T-cells to trigger an immune response, inside the envelope.
  • They can piggyback on a cell’s exocytosis, the process by which cells move materials, to avoid provoking immune responses.

Fortunately, enveloped viruses have a harder time existing outside of host cells. They are far more vulnerable to heat, extreme drying, alcohol disinfectants, and detergents than non-enveloped viruses, making it easier to prevent their spread before they make their way inside the building blocks of the human body. That’s how any new influenza treatment can and should stop the virus in its tracks.

How Seaweed Extract Neutralizes Flu Viruses

The organic compound in seaweed that presents the most potential in the fight against the flu is a sulfated polysaccharide found in certain red algae. In a study published in 2021, researchers used a purified form of the seaweed extract to test the anti-influenza viral activity of this marine resource against influenza A and B.

Researchers infected (or mock-infected for the control group) kidney cells with strains of influenza for an hour at 95°C, removing any of the unabsorbed virus after that period. Then, a threefold dilution of the sulfated polysaccharide compound and several comparable compounds were introduced to measure various degrees of effectiveness.

The early results were promising. When the researchers reviewed the kidney cells for signs of cytopathic effect, the structural change that are visible to host cells under the microscope, there was no indicators of infection. The compound made from seaweed extract inhibited the infection of both influenza A and B without any traces of cytotoxicity up to a maximum concentration of 300 μg/ml.

For pharmaceutical firms along with hygiene companies, there are some key applications. For starters, the use of this sulfated polysaccharide in hand sanitizers can and will continue to curb the spread of the virus before it enters the body. Moreover, the above study suggests that, if trials in humans prove effective, this type of compound could be viable as an intranasal treatment.

Vaccination is the best way to combat the spread of viral illness. In the future, we may be seeing seaweed compounds as another effective tool in combating the flu virus.

Are you looking to stay current with seaweed research as a new general anti-viral? Check out our blog.


Read the latest seaweed news


Related Articles

Can Your Products Use Seaweed as an Antiviral Agent? Signs Point to Yes