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Saliva May Improve With Age for Flu Protection

FRIDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- Certain proteins in saliva help protect seniors from influenza, according to a new study from China.

The findings improve understanding of why older people are better able to fight off the new strains of bird and swine flu than younger people, said researcher Zheng Li and colleagues.

As well as beginning the process of digesting foods, saliva also contains germ-fighting proteins that form a first-line defense against infections. It was already known that a person's age affects their saliva's levels of certain glycoproteins, which are proteins with a sugar coating that combat disease-causing germs.

In this study, investigators sought to learn more about how age-related differences in these saliva proteins affect people's susceptibility to influenza.

The researchers analyzed saliva samples from 180 men and women of various ages and found that glycoproteins in the saliva of people aged 65 and older were more efficient in binding to influenza viruses than those in children and young adults.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Proteome Research.

The researchers said their findings suggest that saliva testing may help improve understanding, prevention and diagnosis of some age-related diseases.

More information

The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion explains how to protect yourself from seasonal flu.

-- Robert Preidt

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