A team of researchers found that a substance in bananas may be able to fight off various viral illnesses like flu and AIDS.

In their study, published in the journal Cell, researchers detailed a protein called lectin that is found in the yellow fruit. In 2010, banana lectin was proven to be effective in fighting HIV, which is the virus responsible for AIDS, but also causes side effects like inflammation.

This latest study was able to create a new version of the protein called H84T, which retained its anti-viral properties without causing the side effects based on trials with mice.

The new and improved version of the protein was developed by a team of 26 scientists who meticulously researched the banana lectin's antiviral properties and how it causes side effects on the body.

"What we've done is exciting because there is potential for BanLec to develop into a broad spectrum anti-viral agent, something that is not clinically available to physicians and patients right now," said Dr. David Markovitz from the University of Michigan Medical School and one of the study's senior authors.

The team admits that while it will take many more years and even more tests before the new protein can be made into a form of treatment that can be used on humans, the researchers are excited for the opportunity to introduce a new, broad spectrum anti-viral against viruses that change quickly like the family of influenza viruses and in critical medical scenarios that could have been caused by a virus.

"We also hope that (banana lectin) could become useful in situations such as emergency pandemic response, and military settings, where the precise cause of an infection is unknown but a viral cause is suspected," Markovitz said.

Several scientists are just as pleased with this development, with some calling it a new strategy in the ongoing war against viruses.

"Each new virus outbreak is a timely reminder of our need for antivirals that can work against a range of viruses," Jonathan Ball from the University of Nottingham said, though he adds that the real challenge now is to make the protein work just as well on humans.

Researchers, however are quick to warn that eating regular bananas won't confer the benefits they have explained in their study, as banana lectin is a modified version of the chemical naturally found in the fruit.

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