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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

Gene Triggering Antibiotic Reaction Risk Identified, Says Study

"This observation also represents significant progress as we zero in on the mechanisms of these life-threatening immune-mediated drug reactions,"

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The study modified the levels of the protein encoded by a single gene known as GPR39.  Pixabay

Researchers have identified a gene that increases the risk of a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction to the commonly prescribed antibiotic vancomycin.

Vancomycin, used to treat serious and life-threatening bacterial infections, has been known to be a common antibiotic trigger for a severe reaction known as DRESS — Drug Rash with Eosinophilia and Systemic Symptoms.

The genetic risk factors predisposing specific patients were not known yet.

The new study, led by researchers from the Vanderbilt University in the US, showed that vancomycin triggers DRESS only in people carrying specific variations in human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes.

DRESS has been characterised by fever, widespread skin rash and internal organ damage.

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Gene triggering antibiotic reaction risk identified. Pixabay

Routine testing for HLA gene could improve patient safety and reduce unnecessary avoidance of other antibiotics, said the study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Since many patients who develop DRESS are often exposed to multiple antibiotics and other drugs simultaneously, the team used a specific diagnostic test developed in their laboratories called gamma-interferon ELISpot.

ELISpot exposed patients’ white blood cells to vancomycin and other concurrently administered antibiotics.This test enabled them to determine which drug was most likely causing DRESS.

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“This test will be important in the clinical care of patients starting vancomycin and will prevent mortality and short and long-term complications,” said Elizabeth Phillips, researcher at the varsity.

“This observation also represents significant progress as we zero in on the mechanisms of these life-threatening immune-mediated drug reactions,” she said. (IANS)