A protein found on the beautifully coloured skin of a frog from the Western Ghats has the potential to be a weapon against the influenza virus, a recent study has found. The ‘weapon’ protein has been named ‘urumin’ after urumi, a sword with a flexible, whip-like blade used in Kalaripayattu, a martial arts form native to Kerala.

The frog is the widespread fungoid frog (Hydrophylax bahuvistara). It is about the size of a tennis ball and has an orange back, separated from a brown underbelly by a thin streak of golden yellow. Spots adorn the frog all over. It hops about near water bodies on the forest floor and often ventures near human habitation. When adult males of this frog get together during the breeding season, their loud singing chorus pierces the twilight for about a kilometre around.

It is from this frog that a team led by Jacob Joshy of Emory University, Atlanta, with collaborators from the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thiruvananthapuram, isolated urumin. The protein has been shown to destroy influenza A viruses in mice.

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