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... snip
We’re 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. “There’s 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 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.