Growing up to 10 feet long and weighing in at over 150 pounds, the komodo dragon is the world’s largest lizard, but these Indonesian natives might have another incredible ability; researchers have discovered that their blood may be able to be used in the development of drugs that counter antibiotic resistance.
Komodo dragons have the ability to tear apart pigs and buffalo, but the water in Indonesia isn’t suitable for consumption so they have to resort to drinking from unclean sources such as areas where the water is sewerage-contaminated, yet they show no ill-effects. If anything, it may actually be beneficial to them.
Previous research has shown that these giant reptiles have up to 57 different harmful bacteria in their mouths, most likely as a result of their drinking situation, and now researchers have discovered how they became resistant to them; their blood contains protein fragments called cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs).
CAMPs make up the basis of the immune system for almost all living creatures and are essential for keeping them alive for the first few weeks before an animal is capable of making its own antibodies to a bacterial infection. These particular protein fragments were also found to be present in the blood of alligators during research in 2015.
The team from George Mason University that discovered the proteins in the blood of komodo dragons have also come up with a technique where negatively charged nanoparticles made from hydrogel were used to capture peptides in the reptiles blood samples and they were able to identify 48 potential CAMPs, 47 of which were derived from histone proteins.
What does all of this mean? Well, histone proteins are known to have antibacterial properties so the team synthesised eight of these peptides and tried them against two ‘superbugs’; pseudomonas aeruginosa, and staphylococcus aureus, aka MRSA, and the results were impressive. Seven of the eight peptides was effective at killing both bacteria, while one was only effective against pseudomonas aeruginosa, meaning they might be able to be used in antibiotics against these bugs.
It’s still early days, but researchers are optimistic that new medicines can be created using this method to help in the fight against these deadly superbugs.