Dr Anna Palamara of the Institute of Microbiology in Rome carried out in vitro and in vivo studies to investigate the chemical's effects on the replication of the influenza virus.
Palamara's hypothesis was based on earlier observations that the lifecycles of several viruses is influenced by the redox states of host cells, which play an important part in the replication of viruses.
In the in vitro study, she found that resveratrol "strongly inhibited" the replication of the influenza virus in cell cultures. The optimum effects were seen when resveratrol was administered three hours after the virus. Some small effect was seen when it was administered six hours after infection, but by nine hours it had no effect.
The researchers also determined that pre-treatment with resveratrol did not alter susceptibility to infection.
In the mouse model, rodents injected with resveratrol after inoculation with the influenza virus were seen to have 40 percent increased survival, compared with those that received a placebo.
Six days after infection, the resveratrol-treated mice had 98 percent lower pulmonary viral titers in their lung than the placebo mice.
Resveratrol's effects in this study are attributed to its antioxidant properties, and in particular the fact that it inhibits a cellular, rather than a viral function. Palamara said that further research into resveratrol's potential role in fighting 'flu epidemics is required, but that her study points to considerable potential.