Skip to comments.Gator Blood Destroys Deadly Superbugs
Posted on 07/01/2008 9:01:06 AM PDT by null and void
Alligator blood could provide a powerful new source of antibiotics for fighting deadly "superbugs" and other infections. Courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Despite their reputation for attacks on humans and pets, alligators are wiggling their way toward a new role as potential lifesavers in medicine. Biochemists in Louisiana are studying how proteins in gator blood may provide a source of powerful new antibiotics to help fight infections associated with diabetic ulcers, severe burns, and superbugs that are resistant to conventional medication.
In a study presented at the 235th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the researchers presented a range of other promising uses for the gators antibiotic proteins. Among them: combating Candida albicans yeast infections, which are a serious problem in AIDS patients and transplant recipients, who have weakened immune systems, the scientists say.
Were very excited about the potential of these alligator blood proteins as both antibacterial and antifungal agents, says Mark Merchant, Ph.D., a biochemist at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA. Theres a real possibility that you could be treated with an alligator blood product one day.
Previous studies by Merchant have shown that alligators have an unusually strong immune system that is very different from that of humans. Unlike people, alligators can fight microorganisms such as fungi, viruses and bacteria without having prior exposure to them. Scientists believe that this is an evolutionary adaptation to promote quick wound healing, as alligators are often injured during fierce territorial battles.
In collaboration with Kermit Murray and Lancia Darville, both of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Merchant and colleagues collected blood samples from American alligators. They then isolated disease-fighting white blood cells (leucocytes) and extracted the active proteins from those cells.
In laboratory tests, tiny amounts of these protein extracts killed a wide range of bacteria, including MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), the deadly bacteria that are moving out of health care settings and into the community. These superbugs are increasingly resistant to multiple antibiotics and cause thousands of deaths each year.
The proteins also killed six out of eight different strains of Candida albicans, the researchers say. Their previous research also suggests that blood proteins may help fight HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The scientists are working to identify the exact chemical structures of the antimicrobial proteins and to determine which proteins are most effective at killing different microbes. The gator blood extract may contain at least four promising substances, they estimate.
With the chemical structures in hand, scientists can begin developing them into antibacterial or antifungal drugs, including pills and creams, for fighting infections. These drugs show particular promise as topical ointments, Merchant says. Gator-blood creams could conceivably be rubbed onto the foot ulcers of patients with diabetes to help prevent the type of uncontrolled infections that lead to amputations, he says. The creams could also be applied to the skin of burn patients to keep infections at bay until damaged skin can heal, the researcher adds.
Merchant suggests that the proteins might be called alligacin. If studies continue to show promise, the drugs could land on pharmacy shelves in another seven to 10 years, he estimates. Until then, dont try to create your own home-remedies using alligator blood, as raw, unprocessed blood could make you sick or even kill you if injected, the researcher cautions.
Similar antimicrobial substances might also be found in related animals such as crocodiles, Merchant notes. In the future, he plans to study blood samples from alligators and crocodile species throughout the world to test their disease-fighting potential.
Hope they don’t stick them on like leeches!
A gator tail a day keeps the doctor away.
well... alligators and crocodiles have survived for millions of years... must be something to it...
Always knew we were good for something.
Bet this story upsets PETA.
Another team of docs is workin’ on “crocadillafloxin.
EVERYTHING upsets PeTA.
(They’re a lot like muslims that way)...
Huh...and here I was last night watching the discovery channel and thinking what purpose do they serve.
Make sense; they live in digusting swamps.
You would think their immune system would be pretty good.
Bet it tastes like chicken blood.
Ummmm. They taste like chicken?
“what purpose do they serve”
The Mob has been putting them to good use for years.
That’s a really fowl comment.
Ummmm. They taste like chicken? ........................ That’s what they say, but the last time we had them, it was like chewing a truck tire.
That’s what I thought when I read this article, too. I have read, btw, that the crocodile is particularly lethal because any crocodile bite can kill you - not from the bite, but from the infection that sets in afterwards. They live in what are essentially pools of bacteria, and their teeth are laden with icky things that get into your bloodstream when they bite you.
Since they don’t die from living in this stuff, I guess it does stand to reason that the crocs (or gators) themselves have some built-in protection from it.
Tastes like very tough chicken.