What are the strengths of the alligators

Alligator blood antibiotics

These are intended to target infections caused by ulcers, burns and pathogens that cannot be dealt with with the antibiotics currently available. Mark Merchant from McNeese State University and Lancia Darville from Louisiana State University presented the results of their research at the American Chemical Society's spring meeting.

The specialty of the alligator immune system lies in the ability to quickly and effectively ward off unknown pathogens and bacteria. Crocodiles, which are very aggressive towards their conspecifics and are often injured in fighting, also have the ability to heal wounds quickly. The crocodile wounds heal without infection, although the reptiles live in swamps - suitable breeding grounds for bacteria. The US researchers see the reason for this strong immune defense in a certain type of protein, called cationic peptides, which is found in alligators' blood. These proteins would destroy the cell membrane of the pathogenic microorganisms, causing them to die.

In a laboratory test, the researchers isolated these components from the reptiles' blood and examined the resistance to various bacterial strains. Even small amounts of the protein could kill strains of the MRSA bacterium and the widespread fungal bacterium Candida albicans. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can lead to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, blood poisoning or toxic shock syndrome in people with a weakened immune system. MRSA is resistant to most antibiotics. After the successful tests, Merchant and his colleagues now want to research the exact structure of the protein molecules that strengthen the alligators' immune system. From this, conclusions should be drawn about a use for future antibiotics.

"With regard to antibiotic resistance, it is very important both to develop new variants with a high hit rate and to always use antibiotics sparingly," says ecotrophologist Rose Schraitle from the Federal Association of Drug Manufacturers. "The microorganisms that are actually supposed to be attacked by the antibiotics can adapt extremely well to the living conditions, so that they can get used to all antibiotics. However, there is no way of predicting how quickly this will happen. But even with such an exotic approach it will most likely develop resistance over time, "continues Schraitler.

The US researchers also admit that the human immune system can reject the alligator proteins as foreign bodies and destroy them with antibodies, so that their effectiveness is lost. Darville pointed to the possibility of producing a synthetic agent once the protein structure was established. "Still, it is not easy to mimic an antimicrobial peptide for clinical use," said Darville. Especially since it is still uncertain to what extent the proteins administered in high doses can have a toxic effect, which cannot be ruled out with such a broad antibacterial and antiviral effect. However, the study authors assume that it will be possible to develop an effective and well-tolerated drug from alligator blood in the form of tablets or creams within the next ten years. (pte)