Meth May Fight the Flu

By McCarton Ackerman 11/07/12

Bizarrely, the dangerous drug may have flu-fighting properties—but don't expect calls for "medical meth" any time soon.

Rest, drink OJ...and take lots of meth?
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Crystal meth use can cause multiple nasty health consequences—such as irregular heartbeats and tooth loss—but a new study suggests it may offer one health benefit: fighting the flu. A group of scientists from the National Health Research Institutes in Taiwan reports that certain meth properties may actually reduce flu viruses in a dose-dependent manner—meaning a higher amount of meth results in lower amounts of the virus being reproduced. "We report the first evidence that meth significantly reduces, rather than increases, virus propagation and the susceptibility to influenza infection in the human lung epithelial cell line," reads the study, which was led by Yun-Hsiang Chen and published in the journal PLoS ONE. The researchers took cultures of human lung epithelial cells, exposed them to various concentrations of meth and then infected them with an H1N1 strain of human influenza A. They found that 30-48 hours after infection, the meth-treated cells had a much lower concentration of the virus than the control group. And while the researchers certainly don't condone using meth as a home remedy for the flu, they believe the study could lead to the discovery of safer remedies. They write: "This finding strongly encourages future work to investigate whether other compounds, structurally similar to meth, can inhibit influenza A virus production and be used to prevent or alleviate influenza A virus infection."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.