Giant Panda Holds the Key to Drug Resistant Bacteria Research
The research was done at the Life Sciences College of Nanjing Agricultural University, located in the Jiangsu province of Nanjing, China.
The World Health Organization, (WHO) had previously called for increased research into therapies for treating antibiotic resistant bacterium and fungi. These super-bugs are infecting people worldwide, and research into finding antibiotics to combat the problem has been lagging.
News of the discovery was well-received in scientific circles. However, further research is now needed to produce the antibiotic peptide without the need for the Giant Panda itself.
The Giant Panda is near extinction, and conservationists around the world are wondering if the massive amounts of money spent on increasing the Giant Panda population could be better spent on other things, given the slow pace of breeding the Giant Panda.
Researchers discovered the compound, Cathelicidin-AM, in the Giant Panda’s DNA. While analyzing the Giant Panda genome sequence, the antibiotic compound was discovered in the immune system of the bear, and scientists then genetically synthesized the peptide compound Cathelicidin-AM from the DNA.
This peptide showed great potential, killing bacterium in 1 hour, instead of the 6 hours that existing antibiotics generally take.
In regards to the study’s findings, Dr Xiuwen Yan, lead researcher for the study said: “It showed potential antimicrobial activities against wide spectrum of microorganisms including bacteria and fungi, both standard and drug-resistant strains. 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. Antimicrobial peptides are important components in innate immunity – they can provide an effective and fast acting defense against harmful microorganisms. More than 1000 antimicrobial peptides have been found from animals, plants, and microorganisms.”
The newly discovered peptide compound Cathelicidin-AM, has similar properties like the one’s found in the glycoprotein Lactoferrin. Lactoferrin is a naturally occurring bacteriocide and fungicide, and is one of the main components in the innate immune system of the human body.
Lactoferrin has antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, anticancer and anti-allergic properties. It is used in the treatment of herpes simplex 1, HIV, hepatitis C, poliovirus type 1, as well as in the treatment of a multitude of hantaviruses and rotovirusies. It also suppresses virus replication with regards to the SARS virus.
The Chinese research team that made the discovery hopes to create an antibiotic to kill “Superbug” antibiotic resistant strains of bacterium, in addition to creating an antiseptic for hospitals to use to clean surfaces that may be contaminated with Staph.
Upwards of 100,000 hospitalized patients in the U.S. contract staph infections each year, with roughly 19,000 deaths.
Article by Jim Donahue