"Hand me the jug, Sam. I think I'm coming down with something," might be the words some wino can use to cadge a drink from a partner along skid row some day.

A friend who had an 86-year-old father used to worry about his drinking a quart of wine a day. He thought he was going to become a wino.

At 86, he probably was doing all right in staving off a virus, if the discovery by a pair of Canadian food virologists that wine is an effective anti-viral agent develops further.

John Konowalchuk and Joan I. Speirs, who normally look for contamination in fruits and vegetables, discovered while working one day that some fruits, including grapes, possessed antiviral activity.

In their report the research team found that red wines wer emore antiviral than white.

They wrote that when red wine is fermented the skin is left on the grape, but with the white wine, the grape is peeled, so the antiviral agent may be lodged in the skin.

For testing they used three Canadian wines - red, white and rose, three French reds, one Italian red and three Germans whites.

If you think there was singing in the lab, forget it.

The experiments were conducted under microscope, in test tubes, and not with human subject.

In Alexis Lichine's "New Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits," and S.P. Lucia's "A History of Wine as Therapy," both authors describe the health benefits that can be derived from the moderate consumption of wine.

Paul Garner, public affairs officer at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) said he was unaware if any similar experiments were being sponsored by the government.

He also said the U.S. government never put out a report saying that "a glass of wine a day is good for sleeplessness, old age, lassitude or other infirmities."

Konowalchuk and Speirs are continuing experiments and said, "There is nothing definite that we know of yet.

"So far as we know, we are the only two working on this experiment as of now."

The next step is to try it out on monkeys, through feeding experiments.

The Canadian scientists also found, and this may wreck an excuse to reach for a glass of wine to stifle a virus, that just plain unsweetened concord grape juice was just as effective, and even a little better than wine.