Monday, April 14, 2008

AlligatorMan – reptile blood may be the answer to antibiotic resistant infections

Alligators, those big reptiles with the power in their jaws to rip to shred almost anything, are now being investigated by scientists as potential lifesavers in treating infectious diseases. These predators, portrayed in movies as deadly human killers may ironically be the ones to save our lives one day. Powerful proteins with the ability to fight off multiple infections such as the methicillin-resistant bacteria, Staphylococcus Aureus have been detected in their blood. Other infections related with diabetic ulcers, severe burns and “superbugs” resistant to current antibiotics are also seem to be targeted by the newly found alligator protein. Mark Merchant, Ph.D., a biochemist at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La, claims that the newly protein might be called “alligacin” and suggests that we might one day be treated with an alligator blood product.

Alligators have been shown to have an unusually strong immune system, they are able to fight bacteria and other microorganisms without previous encounter. Alligators’ evolutionary adaptations are believed promote fast wound healing due to severe injuries alligators obtain during various battles.

The famous proteins were extracted from alligator leukocytes by researchers from the Lousiana State Univeristy, Kermit Murray and Lancia Darville, Merchant and colleagues.

When tested in laboratories, these proteins were shown to be deadly to a wide range of bacteria including MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), potent bacteria that have arisen in health care setting which are now spreading into communities. These type of bacteria are known to be resistant to multiple antibiotics and are growing out of control in any environment.

The proteins were also tested against strains of the yeast Candida Albicans and were shown to eradicate six out of eight strains. There is also hope that the blood proteins might help in fighting HIV and various infections contracted when affected by this virus.

Scientists believe that the proteins will in the future be turned into antibacterial and antifungal drugs, in pill sand ointment form.

Research is now being carried out in hope to find these proteins in other related animals such as crocodiles. With funding from the state of Louisiana and the National Science Foundation, Merchant is planning to study extensive samples to explore these animals’ disease fighting potential.

Frogs and other amphibians have been identified with other unique types of proteins that are yet to be analysed thoroughly but Daniel Brown, University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville, says that these animals are in major decline due to diseases.

By Cedric Ng Liet Hing 41760419


Ehrenberg, R. (2008) "Antibiotic Alligator: Promising proteins lurk in reptile blood" Science News Online, vol. 175, no. 15, p. 228. URL:

Marsh, C., Bernstein, M. (2008) "Alligator blood may put the bite on antibiotic-resistant infections" URL: - size 9.3K

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