Are giant pandas the latest weapon against superbugs Scientists discover powerful antibiotic in their blood
Scientists find that substance produced by pandas killed bacteria in less than an hour, while other antibiotics took more than six hoursPlans to develop the antibiotic either as a new drug to fight superbugs
or as an antiseptic for cleaning surfaces and utensils
17:37 GMT, 31 December 2012
Scientists have discovered a powerful antibiotic in the blood stream of giant pandas that can destroy fungi and bacteria.
The Chinese researchers
discovered the compound, known as cathelicidin-AM, after analysing the
It's thought that that the antibiotic is released by the bear’s immune system in order to protect them infections.
Hidden talents: There are only around 1,600 giant pandas left in the wild, but scientists have found they produce an antibiotic that kills bacteria
The scientists found that cathelicidin-AM killed bacteria in less than an hour while other antibiotics took more than six hours.
now want to develop the substance either as a new drug to fight superbugs
or as an antiseptic for cleaning surfaces and utensils.
The distinctive bears, of which there
are just 1,600 in the wild, have become an emblem for conservation – and
now there could be a new reason to try and protect them.
Thankfully, scientists will not need to rely on the animal’s unreliable breeding ability to harvest the new antibiotic, as they have been able to make it artificially in the lab by decoding the genes to produce a small molecule known as a peptide.
Dr Xiuwen Yan, who led the research at the Life Sciences College of Nanjing Agricultural University in China told the Daily Telegraph: 'It showed potential antimicrobial activities against wide spectrum of microorganisms including bacteria and fungi, both standard and drug-resistant strains.
Superbugs like this Enterococcus Bacteria may be targeted with the substance produced by pandas
'Under the pressure of increasing microorganisms with drug resistance against conventional antibiotics, there is urgent need to develop new type of antimicrobial agents.
'Gene-encoded antimicrobial peptides play an important role in innate immunity against noxious microorganisms. They cause much less drug resistance of microbes than conventional antibiotics.'
Panda populations have decreased owing to the destruction of their natural habitat and bamboo food supplies in China and south east Asia.
Attempts increase their numbers, including efforts at Edinburgh Zoo with resident pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang, have been frustrated the extreme difficulty in getting them to breed in captivity.
Even in the wild, pandas struggle to breed easily, as the females only come into season once a year.
It has been debated that the millions of pounds spent using expensive artificial breeding techniques could be put to better use on other conservation projects.
And this new discovery is likely to strengthen the case to save the endangered creatures.