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Fearsome Giant Lizards Komodo Dragons found in Indonesia may be a source of a potent Antibiotic

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Hudo, a seven year old Komodo dragon, peers out from it's new home, Thursday, June 3, 2010, at the Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati. Hudo is seven feet long and weighs 100 pounds. The zoo is opening a new exhibit June 5 called Dragons that features the Komodo dragon and other lizards. (AP Photo/Al Behrman) VOA

Indonesia, April 21, 2017: Komodo dragons, fearsome giant lizards found in Indonesia, may be a source of a potent antibiotic. If so, researchers say the agent could be an answer to the growing, global health problem of antibiotic resistance.

Huge, toothy and aggressive, Komodo dragons are surrounded by filth in their daily lives. As a result, Barney Bishop, a biochemist at George Mason University near Washington, said Komodo dragons have developed what he called a “robust” immune system.

Bishop studies molecules produced by the immune system as a front-line defense against infection. That, he said, is the reason for the interest in Komodos.

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“They are known to eat carrion; they live in an unsanitary environment; they have been recorded to have up to 57 bacterial strains in their mouths,” some of which can cause disease, he said. “Yet the reptiles themselves are not harmed by these bacteria, whether it’s in their mouths or wounds inflicted by other lizards.”

Bishop and his colleagues, working with blood from Komodos, isolated peptides, or small proteins, produced by the reptiles’ immune systems. The peptides, Bishop said, seem to have remarkable anti-bacterial properties.

Artificial version tested

Researchers made artificial versions of these peptides and tested the most promising one — DRGN-1, or DRAGON-1 — in wounded mice and human skin cell cultures. They found the protein molecules exhibited three outstanding properties: They destroyed the outer layer of bacteria, dissolved biofilms — a sticky colony that microbes form to shield against antibiotics — and speeded up healing.

The work with Komodo dragon peptides was published in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes.

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Bishop said, “Their peptides may offer some promise and some new insights or provide new templates for development of new therapeutics to treat infection.”

Bishop said the three-pronged action of DRGN-1, if made into an antibiotic, would make it unlikely that disease-causing bacteria could become drug-resistant.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an agency of the U.S. Defense Department, paid for the research. The military is interested in the work because it may relate to bioweapons.

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Samples of blood for the study were taken from a 45.3-kilogram (100-pound) male Komodo dragon named Tujah who lives at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park in Florida.

Bishop said only a one-time sample of blood was needed because the peptides were artificially reproduced, so no animal was harmed for the study. (VOA)

Next Story

Fatal Fungal Infection Weakens the Immune System- Study

Researchers have now discovered how the fungus knocks out the immune defences.

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Fungus, Immune System
Fungus knocks out the immune defences, enabling a potentially fatal fungal infection to develop. Pixabay

While, healthy people usually have no problem if microorganisms find their way into their bodies as their immune defence system will put the spores out of action, a specific type of fungus can threaten lives with a compromised immune system, such as AIDS patients or who are immunosuppressed following an organ transplantation, says a new study.

Researchers have now discovered how the fungus — Aspergillus fumigatus — knocks out the immune defences, enabling a potentially fatal fungal infection to develop.

Fungus, Immune System
A specific type of fungus can threaten lives with a compromised immune system, such as AIDS patients. Pixabay

Among other factors, it is gliotoxin — a potent mycotoxin — that is responsible for the pathogenicity of Aspergillus fumigatus.

Pathogenicity refers to the ability of an organism to cause disease.

“It was known that this substance has an immunosuppressive effect, which means that it weakens the activity of cells of the immune defence system. However, it had not been clear previously how exactly this happens,” said Oliver Werz, Professor at the University of Jena in Germany.

To achieve this, they brought immune cells into contact with synthetically produced gliotoxin. These cells — neutrophilic granulocytes — represent the first line of the immune defence system.

Fungus, Immune System
Fungus can impair the immune system. Pixabay

Their task is to detect pathogens and eliminate them. As soon as such a cell comes into contact with a pathogen, for example a fungus, it releases specific messenger substances (leukotrienes) into the blood, which attract other immune cells. Once a sufficiently large number of immune cells has gathered, they can render the intruder harmless, findings showed, published in the journal, Cell Chemical Biology.

This does not happen if the pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus is involved. Gliotoxin ensures that production of the messenger substance leukotrieneB4 in the neutrophilic granulocytes is inhibited, so that they are unable to send a signal to other immune cells. This is caused by a specific enzyme (LTA4 hydrolase) being switched off by the mycotoxin.

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“This interrupts communication between the immune cells and destroys the defence mechanism. As a result, it is easy for spores – in this case the fungus – that enter the organism to infiltrate tissues or organs,” said Werz. (IANS)