It is a widely held belief that all someone needs to do to contract an infection, such as one caused by a virus, is to come into contact with an infected patient. However, it’s important to realize that these pathogens are only able to successfully invade and take hold within our bodies if our immune systems are weak. Thankfully, there are countless ways to boost immunity and fend off disease, one of these being to increase production or intake of mannose-binding lectins.
Mannose-binding lectins are produced by a healthy immune system, for the purpose of breaking apart glycoproteins that enable many viruses, certain bacteria, and some yeasts to hide from immune cells and penetrate cell membranes. Once a virus penetrates a cell, it wreaks havoc by hijacking the DNA and RNA in order to turn the cell into a virus-cloning factory.
There is a multitude of studies showing that mannose binding lectins (MBLs) are associated with infectious and other diseases. Research has found that low levels of MBLs are associated with a higher rate of infections from tuberculosis and sepsis to candidiasis, recurrent Clostridium difficile infections, influenza, and “golden staph.”
For example, sepsis patients had a lower MBL concentration than control patients, with a standardized mean difference of 1.59; among Asian patients there was a stronger association with an SMD of 3.07. Other research found that women with candidiasis had a 4.84 or 12.68 times greater risk respectively of recurrent infections if they had mutated variants of one or both pairs of a gene responsible for MBL production.
Higher levels of MBLs are also associated with less inflammation, better cardiovascular health, reduced severity of cystic fibrosis (regardless of genetic mutations), and even a reduced risk of ovarian cancer. Additionally, in vitro studies on 33 different plants against the SARS and FIP viruses found that 15 of them had lectins that could attack both viruses, 5 had lectins that could only attack SARS and 2 were only antiviral against FIPV.
Though MBLs are vital for a healthy immune response, research in the USA has shown that 7-10% of people are deficient in them, while research from the UK has reported a deficiency rate of 10-30%. Deficiency of MBLs are caused by a combination of genetic mutations and environmental factors.
For example, smoking and other sources of oxidative stress such as cooking fuel exhaust deplete MBLs while factors such as high vitamin D levels are linked with a higher concentration. What’s more, environmental factors may be more important than genetic mutations that affect MBL levels, as one study reports that low MBL concentration increased the risk of C. difficile infection recurrence by over three times and by 2.6 times at the 50ng/mL and 100ng/mL cutoff points respectively.
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In addition, people with two different mutations that affect MBL production were 1.67 and 2.02 times more likely to develop tuberculosis; passive smoking and cooking with solid fuel were associated with a 1.58 and 2.93 times greater risk respectively.
One reason why sufficient antioxidant status is necessary is that oxidised MBLs cause dysfunctional macrophage activity, making it more difficult to fight infections.
Foods with Mannose-Binding Plant Lectins
“Here is the list of the mannose-binding plant lectins that were antiviral against both the SARS and FIPV viruses from the research (note that a few of the below plants are not edible):
- Amaryllis (Hippeastrum hybrid)
- Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)
- Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus)
- Red spider lily (Lycoris radiate)
- Leek (Allium porrum)
- Ramsons (Allium ursinum)
- Taro (Colocasia esculenta)
- Cymbidium orchid (Cymbidium hybrid)
- Twayblade (Listera ovata)
- Broad-leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine)
- Tulip (Tulipa hybrid)
- Black mulberry tree (Morus Nigra)
- The other plant lectins that were antiviral against both included:
- Tobacco plant (Nicotiana tabacum)
- Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
Here are the plants whose lectins that were antiviral but not against both:
Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum multiflorum)
Mistletoe (Viscum album)
Iris (Iris hybrid)
Yellow wood (Cladastris lutea)”