Protein in spirulina can inhibit deadly viruses

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that grows in lakes and other bodies of water. In recent years, it has become popular as a dietary supplement because it has been found to be a rich natural source of nutrients.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) found that a protein named cyanovirin-N (CV-N) contained in spirulina has the ability to slow down the progression of viruses, including HIV and Ebola, by reducing their ability to infect healthy cells. When this protein was administered to mice infected with the Ebola virus they were not cured, but their life was extended – quite a remarkable result! See for more information on the NCI report and the antiviral properties of CV-N.

While the CV-N protein is not currently available in pure form, spirulina itself may offer some of the same antiviral protection in addition to numerous other benefits. For example, the Russians used spirulina to decontaminate children who had been exposed to high-level radiation during the Chernobyl disaster. The Institute for Radiation in Minsk had the children take 5 grams of spirulina daily and observed a 50% decrease in body levels of radiation after twenty days. These results are impressive, especially considering that radiation levels decline very slowly if left untreated. Based on this experience, the Russian ministry of health now recommends spirulina as a standard treatment for radiation exposure.

The U.S. medical system may not lend much credence to reports like this one and is much more interested in high-tech and expensive solutions rather than simple natural ones. Nevertheless, the Russian experience with spirulina is of value for all of us, especially now that we face the possibility of nuclear terrorism in our country.

The Russians chose spirulina in the first place because Japanese researchers had found it to be a rich source of naturally occurring metallothioneins (MT’s). MT’s are proteins made in the body (and elsewhere in nature) that help protect us from environmental toxins, including radiation and heavy metals such as mercury or lead. A human genetic variant that leads to inefficient metallothionein production is believed to be a trigger for autism and ADHD in children who are exposed to excessive amounts of toxins.

In such cases, it is more likely that we are dealing with a normal genetic variant known as a polymorhism rather than a true genetic disorder. Such polymorphisms determine things like our appearance, but also the way that we digest food or eliminate toxins. In a relatively clean environment, a less efficient MT production is not a major disadvantage, but it becomes one when, for example, we begin to inject infants with vaccines that contain mercury. People with this genetic variant who escape childhood disorders such as autism or ADHD may have an increased risk of chronic health conditions in adulthood, although I don’t think this has ever been studied.

Before you run out to buy a bottle of spirulina, you should be aware that different strains have very different nutrient profiles. Spirulina pacifica and Hawaiian pacifica are considered the best strains. However, growing conditions, harvesting and bottling practices all impact the quality of the product and, unfortunately, much of what is available in retail stores is contaminated and of inferior quality.

Additional information on the benefits of spirulina can be found in the May 1997 issue of an Australian publication, “The Medifile Report” (Post Office Box 78, Ourimbah, NSW 2258, Australia, tel. 043-622-458 or 621-871).

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