Pandas might be source of powerful new antibiotic

Maybe these cuddly creatures are useful for more than just their looks. Via The Telegraph:

Scientists have discovered that the animals, of which there are around 1,600 in the wild, produce a powerful antibiotic in their blood stream that kills bacteria and fungi.

They believe the substance could be used to create potent new treatments against drug resistant superbugs and other diseases.

The antibiotic is thought to be released by the bear’s immune system to protect them infections when they are living in the wild. Researchers discovered the compound, known as cathelicidin-AM, after analysing the panda’s DNA.

Scientists have been able to synthesize the compounds, so there’s no risk of pandas being hunted like black bears and harvested for their bile.

The Chinese researchers found that the cathelicidin-AM, which is produced by immune cells in the animal’s blood, was found to kill bacteria in less than an hour while other well known antibiotics took more than six hours.

They hope to develop the substance either as a new drug to tackle superbugs or as an antiseptic for cleaning surfaces and utensils. Dr Yan and his colleagues also believe there may be other potential drugs hidden within the panda genome.

Must ask though: do we really need more antibiotics in a country that already overuses them? Possibly it’s just a never-ending fight: science finds super-antibiotic, forcing super-bacteria to evolve into Batman-bacteria.

Giant Pandas hold new weapon in fight against superbugs (The Telegraph)

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