Consumption of wolfberries - also known as goji berries - may be associated with increasing the protective effect of influenza vaccines against the virus, according to new research in mice.
Writing in the Journal of Nutrition, the new study analysed the effect of goji berry consumption on the effectiveness of the influenze vaccine to prevent infection with the influenza virus in older mice.
Led by researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University, the research team noted that current vaccines for influenza do not fully protect the elderly against infection, and although wolfberry has been shown to improve immune responses "it is not known if this effect would translate to better protection."
The findings of the new study suggest that wolfberries appear to interact with the influenza vaccine, and therefore offer additional protection against the flu virus, by increasing the activity of dendritic cells - which play an important role in the ability of the immune system to defend against viral infections.
"We observed higher antibody response and better protection against flu as indicated by less weight loss in the older mice that consumed wolfberries," explained senior author Dr Simin Nikbin Meydani. "While previous studies have shown that wolfberries bolster immune response in mice, our results introduce their potential to reduce the age-related risk and severity of the flu virus in the presence of the vaccine."
Study co-author Dayong Wu noted that although the new study has taken a step toward understanding the mechanism behind the wolfberry's interaction with the flu vaccine, "it remains unclear which components of wolfberries may be responsible for the effects observed in this study."
"Wolfberries are rich in complex carbohydrates known as polysaccharides, as well as vitamins, carotenoids and flavonoids," he commented. "Future studies in rodent models would be necessary to understand which components appear to be stimulating the dendritic cells."