Drinking tea could help stave off severe flu

Good news for tea drinkers – recent research has found that drinking tea could help ward off the flu!

The research was conducted on mice, where it was found that a gut microbe helped fight off severe flu infections. It’s thought the microbe helps break down naturally occurring compounds called flavonoids.  These flavonoids are commonly found in foods such as black tea, red wine and blueberries.

It has previously been speculated that gut microbes may help protect us against the flu. But the aim of this study was to define exactly which microbes offer us protection, and how. In the study, scientists looked at human gut microbes to identify the microbe which metabolised flavonoids. The microbe they found (Clostridium Orbiscindens) breaks down flavonoids and produces a metabolite.  This metabolite helps to boost the immune system.

“The metabolite is called desaminotyrosine, otherwise known as DAT,” Ashley Steed, an instructor in paediatrics at St Louis Children’s Hospital said. “When we gave DAT to mice and then infected them with influenza, the mice experienced far less lung damage than mice not treated with DAT.”

The study also found that the lungs of DAT-treated mice didn’t have as much flu damage. But their levels of viral infection were identical to those in the mice that didn’t get the treatment.

Influenza is a viral infection which attacks your respiratory system.  The symptoms include nasal congestion, a persistent cough and body/muscle aches.  Often mistaken for a common cold, the symptoms of flu are usually more intense, and in severe cases, can lead to death.

The World Health Organisation estimates there are 3 to 5 million cases of severe flu-related illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 flu-related deaths worldwide per year.