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 strains (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.
AdvertisementCathelicidin-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.
'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', 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!