Cranberry juice may help stop stomach viruses, according to preliminary lab tests in animals.

Cranberry juice has long had a reputation for preventing urinary tract infections. These juices have antibiotic properties that may inhibit bacteria within the bladder.

So far it's only been tested against stomach viruses in a lab, using viruses from monkeys and goats. It's not yet known if the beverage would be a remedy for people or which stomach viruses it would target.

Researchers who worked on the study included Patrice Cohen of St. Francis College in New York. They presented their findings in Atlanta at the American Society for Microbiology's 105th General Meeting.

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Global Problem

There are many different kinds of stomach bugs, and thousands of people every year are sickened by them. Worldwide, millions have died from diarrhea. Most of those deaths happen in developing countries, where drinking water and availability of medical care are often insufficient.

For instance, diarrhea killed an estimated 2.2 million people worldwide in 1998, says the World Health Organization (WHO). Most cases were in children younger than 5 years old living in developing countries and were caused by gastrointestinal infections linked to bacteria, viruses, and parasites, says the WHO.

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Cranberry Juice Lab Test

In the lab tests, which were partly funded by the Cranberry Institute and the Wisconsin Cranberry Board, researchers treated monkey and goat stomach viruses with commercially available cranberry juice. When the juice was present, the viruses didn't infect cells and didn't latch onto red blood cells.

"Our studies suggest a cranberry juice-induced antiviral effect upon selected intestinal animal viral disease-producing agents," says Cohen in a news release.

"Additional studies in the form of human trials need to be performed to determine any beneficial effects of cranberry juice consumption as a means to help reduce the incidence of viral intestinal disease," she says.

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By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: American Society for Microbiology's 105th General Meeting, Atlanta, June 5-9, 2005. World Health Organization: "Water-related Diseases: Diarrhea." News release, American Society for Microbiology. Reuters.