Who doesn’t want dragon blood coursing through their veins?
Washington, DC, researchers have devised an unlikely antidote to antibiotic-resistant bacteria: drugs made from Komodo dragon blood.
The Indonesian reptiles are “very successful at surviving the nasty bacteria-filled conditions they live in,” Monique Van Hoek, the associate director at George Mason University’s School of Systems Biology, who spearheaded the bloody study, told the Telegraph Wednesday. In the research published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, scientists synthesized a new antibiotic, DRGN-6, by combining two genes found in the blood of the endangered lizard, which is the world’s largest at up to 10 feet long.
Komodo dragon blood might sound like a witches brew ingredient. However, in preclinical trials, DRGN-6 killed the drug-resistant bacteria — Klebsiella pneumoniae — behind an aggressive type of pneumonia. Not only that but a 2017 study by the same team demonstrated that another molecule found in dragon blood, DRGN-1, even facilitated the healing of cuts ridden with a staph infection in mice.
Researchers attribute the blood’s antimicrobial properties to the fact that the species evolved differently from humans.
“Their immunity is likely different … and protects against different bacteria,” said Van Hoek. The Komodo dragon’s mouth reportedly harbors more than 80 strains of bacteria, some of which cause blood poisoning in bitten humans and animals. In fact, the predator was previously thought to incapacitate prey with its bacteria-ridden bite — before researchers discovered that it possessed actual venom glands, according to National Geographic.
Meanwhile, the dragon itself remains unaffected by its dirty mouth and can even suffer a severed limb without becoming septic.
Scientists hope that this immunity can be harnessed and used to fight the Klebsiella pneumoniae superbug. The US sees 8,000 annual cases with nearly 600 deaths. The only antimicrobial that’s moderately effective against the bacteria has side effects such as liver damage and hearing loss.
Van Hoek deemed the study a “critical first step,” but it could be 10 years before DRGN-6 is available to the public. The team will first need to tinker with the molecule to ensure that it doesn’t harm red blood cells as a collateral effect.
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