The latest weapon against superbugs An antibiotic made from human SWEAT
Chemical in sweat called dermcidin kills harmful germsIs activated in salty, slightly acidic perspiration May now be used to develop infection-fighting drugs
16:08 GMT, 22 February 2013
17:25 GMT, 22 February 2013
An antibiotic created from sweat could fend off hospital superbugs and deadly strains of TB, researchers say.
A chemical called dermcidin is activated in salty, slightly acidic perspiration and perforates the cell membrane of harmful microbes, eventually killing them.
Scientists hope to develop new drugs based on the molecule to control a host of bacteria after uncovering its atomic structure.
Dermcidin, a chemical that is activated in salty, slightly acidic perspiration, could fend off superbugs and deadly strains of TB
Dr Ulrich Zachariae, of the University of Edinburgh, said: 'Now that we know in detail how these natural antibiotics work, we can use this to help develop infection-fighting drugs that are more effective than conventional antibiotics.'
About 1,700 types of natural antibiotics are known to exist, and researchers, writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated how they work.
They found that dermcidin is spread by sweat glands, so if our skin becomes injured by a small cut, a scratch or the sting of a mosquito they rapidly and efficiently kill invaders.
These substances, known as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), are more effective in the long term than traditional antibiotics as germs are not capable of quickly developing resistance against them.
The antimicrobials can attack the bugs' Achilles' heel, their cell wall, which cannot be modified quickly to resist attack. Because of this, AMPs have great potential to form a new generation of antibiotics.
The compound found in sweat is active against many well known pathogens such as tuberculosis (above)
Through a combination of techniques, scientists were able to determine the atomic structure of the molecular channel.
The researchers found the molecular channel of dermcidin is unusually long, permeable and adaptable and can adapt to extremely variable types of membrane, enabling it to fend off bacteria and fungi at the same time.
The compound is active against many well known pathogens such as tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and hospital superbug Staphylococcus aureus.
Multi-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, in particular, have become an increasing threat for patients, leading to life threatening diseases such as sepsis and pneumonia.
Added Dr Zachariae: 'Antibiotics are not only available on prescription. Our own bodies produce efficient substances to fend off bacteria, fungi and viruses.'