ORLANDO – A common food additive can make it more difficult to control the flu.
Vaccinated mice receiving food containing the additive, tert-butyl hydroquinone (tBHQ), took three days longer to recover from influenza than mice that ate tBHQ-free food. The unpublished result suggests that the common additive may make influenza vaccines less effective, toxicologist Robert Freeborn from Michigan State University in East Lansing reported on April 7 at 2019 Experimental Biology meeting.
The additive helps to stabilize fats and is used as a preservative for a wide variety of foods, including some cooking oils, frozen meat products – especially fish fillets ̵
In independent experiments, unvaccinated mice that ate tBHQ in their food had more viral RNA in their lungs than mice did not eat it. The TBHQ eggs also had inflammation and increased mucus production deeper in their lungs than usual, Freeborn and colleagues found.
The researchers do not know exactly how the additive inhibits influenza fighting, but it may be because it increases the activity of an immune system protein called Nrf2. Increased activity of that protein can reduce the number of virus-fighting immune cells in the mice. This option remains tested.