The Giant panda blood contains a peptide which when
synthesized could effectively fight drug resistant bacteria and fungi,
according to researchers from the Life Sciences College of Nanjing Agricultural
University in China.
The researchers stumbled on this
cathelicidin-like antimicrobial peptide when they were studying the DNA of the
panda. The cathelicidin-AM peptide when synthesized showed potential
antimicrobial activities against wide spectrum of microorganisms including
Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, and fungi, and that too, very
quickly. The study found that it took less than an hour to kill all Staphylococcus sciuri
(responsible for disorders such as endocarditis, urinary tract infection,
pelvic inflammatory disease and septic shock) as compared with 6 hours taken by
the antibiotic clindamycin.
Cathelicidin-AM is produced by
the immune cells in the blood stream of the panda to protect them from
infections in the wild. The substance kills bacteria by directly attacking the
bacterial cell wall and cell membrane. The peptide is effective even against
drug resistant strains or as they are popularly known, the 'superbugs'.
'Under the pressure of increasing
microorganisms with drug resistance against conventional antibiotics, there is
urgent need to develop new type of antimicrobial agents', said Dr Xiuwen Yan,
the lead researcher of this study.
peptides play an important role in innate immunity against noxious
microorganisms. They cause much less drug resistance of microbes than
conventional antibiotics', opined Dr Yan.
The study also found that the
panda cathelicidin had the nearest evolution relationship with dog
cathelicidin. Incidentally, there are more than 1000 other anti-microbial
compounds produced by plants and animals.
The researchers are hoping to use
this peptide in developing a new drug to fight superbugs or as an antiseptic
for cleaning surfaces and utensils. The study is almost a year old and has been
published in the journal Gene.
Fortunately, the peptide can be
synthesized artificially in the laboratory so there is absolutely no danger of
harming these animals. The giant panda is listed as endangered in the World
Conservation Union's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Species.
According to the World Wild Life
Organization (WWF), there are fewer than 1600 pandas in the wild. 'This
peaceful creature with a distinctive black and white coat is adored by the
world and considered a national treasure in China', states the WWF which has
the panda as its logo.
So, this discovery is all the
more reason to save this endangered species from extinction!