Killer alligators could turn into human saviours

April 7th, 2008 - 1:17 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 7 (IANS) Aggressive and deadly killers like alligators might well turn into saviours for a diseased and ailing humanity, according to biochemists. Proteins in alligator blood could be the source of powerful new antibiotics to help fight infections associated with diabetic ulcers, severe burns and “super-bugs” resistant to conventional drugs, a new study contends.

This study, the first to explore the anti-microbial activity of alligator blood in detail, found a range of other promising uses for the gator’s antibiotic proteins, like combating Candida albicans yeast infections, which are a serious problem in AIDS patients and transplant recipients, who have weakened immune systems.

“We’re very excited about the potential of these alligator blood proteins as both antibacterial and anti-fungal agents,” said Mark Merchant of McNeese State University and the study’s co-author.

Findings of the study were presented Sunday at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Previous studies by Merchant showed that alligators have an unusually strong immune system that is very different from that of humans.

Unlike people, alligators can fight micro-organisms like fungi, viruses, and bacteria without having prior exposure to them. Scientists believe that this is an evolutionary adaptation to promote quick wound healing, as alligators are often injured during fierce territorial battles.

In collaboration with Kermit Murray and Lancia Darville of Louisiana State University, Merchant and colleagues isolated disease-fighting white blood cells (leucocytes) and extracted the active proteins from alligators.

In lab tests, they found that such proteins also killed six out of eight different strains of Candida albicans. They are working to identify the exact chemical structures of the anti-microbial proteins and determine which proteins are most effective at killing different microbes. The alligator blood extract may contain at least four promising substances, they estimate.

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