Frog skin bacteria may help develop alternative drugs to treat fungal infections that are becoming more drug-resistant in humans, finds a study.
The study showed that Pseudomonas Cichorii — a bacteria with antifungal properties living on frog’s skins — can potentially inhibit the growth of Aspergillus Fumigatus (A. Fumigatus) — a fungus that causes invasive aspergillosis — an infectious disease — in humans with impaired immune system.
The research also holds promise for frogs, as the bacteria may help defy the chytridiomycosis epidemic, a major cause of disease-related deaths among amphibians worldwide, the researchers said.
“We are showing to the scientific community a set of possible alternative molecules to fight fungal drug resistance in humans,” said lead author Christian Martin, from the Institute for Scientific Research and High Technology Services in Panama.
“Although more studies are needed, our collaboration could spark interest in conservation of amphibians as a novel source of bioactive compounds in humans.
“For amphibians, this is a promising study because there are only four chemically described bacterial secondary metabolites that inhibit chytrid fungi,” Martin said.
For the study, published in Scientific Reports journal, the team travelled to the Chiriqui highlands in Panama, where the chytrid fungus, responsible for the disease chytridiomycosis, has severely affected amphibian populations.
They collected samples from seven frog species to find out what kind of skin bacteria they harboured.
In the laboratory, 201 bacterial strains were retrieved from the samples and tested against A. Fumigatus, in patients having an impaired immune system.
Of these, 29 showed antifungal activity, but particularly one bacterium called Pseudomonas Cichorii showed the greatest potential to inhibit the growth of A. Fumigatus.
“I consider that bioprospecting compounds from skin secretions or bacteria living in frog’s skins is just the beginning,” said scientist Roberto Ibanez from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City.
“This research has identified an antifungal compound produced by frog skin bacteria, which may be used to control pathogenic fungi affecting humans and amphibians. More research will be required to determine its potential medicinal use,” Ibanez said. (IANS)
A medical facility specifically catering North Korea’s privileged elites has been forced to open its doors to common citizens in exchange for bribes, in an effort to stem financial difficulties, sources say.
Pyongyang’s Bonghwa Medical Center offers top-notch medical care, but has officially only been available to Kim Jong Un and Workers’ Party officials of the highest ranks.
Now strapped for cash, the hospital will admit anyone who greases the palms of the right people. While health care is officially free for all citizens, hospitals for elites, like Bongwha are a step above what citizens typically have access to.
“My nephew is a doctor and he has been suffering from stomach problems for more than 10 years. He was [recently] treated at Bonghwa Medical Center and has been healed completely,” said a source from North Pyongan province in an interview with RFA’s Korean Service.
“It cost him a lot of money to get treated [there], but now I have come to realize that money can do anything,” said the source.
The source said Bonghwa is known as “the best hospital in the Republic,” and that it is reserved for politically important people, expressing disgust that it could now be bought into.
“It is surprising that ordinary people can [get] medical treatment [there] if they bribe them. I feel bitter because there’s nothing money can’t do in this society,” said the source.
The source noted that bribery is not unique to Bonghwa — other well-regarded hospitals are doing the same.
“Well-known hospitals in Pyongyang, including Kim Man-yu Hospital, Namsan Hospital, and the Red Cross Hospital are treating a number of ordinary patients from other regions. They are getting medical treatment because they have bribed high-rank officials,” said the source.
The source said that patients of Bonghwa and the other hospitals have access to medicines that aren’t available to the general public, but these too come with a hefty price tag for the patients who have bribed their way in.
“Since they are not high-ranking officials, ordinary patients have to pay a lot for these prescription drugs. It’s like the hospitals are earning foreign cash off patients,” the source said.
Even if a patient has the means to get into the good hospitals, the level of care can still differ depending on how much was paid in bribe.
“If you give a large amount, they will even treat you better than a high-ranking official from the Central Committee [of the Workers’ Party.]”
A North Korean defector surnamed Lee who settled in South Korea confirmed the North Korean medical industry’s state of affairs.
“In the past, hospitals that have been designated only for high-ranking officials in Pyongyang have ignored their mandate and provided care to ordinary patients,” said Lee, adding, “Without taking bribes from these people, it would be difficult for hospitals to stay open, and for doctors to make an actual living.”
“That’s just how things are in the North Korean medical industry,” said Lee.
“Medical equipment and hospital supplies provided by the outside world, supposedly as humanitarian aid, all go to these elite hospitals,” said Lee.
“The hospitals are for privileged people, but since state support is so small, they would be difficult to run properly without extra money from ordinary patients,” Lee said.
In 2010, the World Health Organization controversially described North Korea’s universal health care system as “the envy of the developing world,” contradicting a report from Amnesty International that same year that said the country’s hospitals were barely functioning and unable to deal with epidemics and rampant malnutrition.
In February, The New Humanitarian published a report describing North Korea’s “silent health crisis,” which acknowledged a recent improvement in public health within the country, but described its health system as inadequate. The Geneva-based news outlet founded by the United Nations said that a formal peace agreement with the United States and South Korea would not in and of itself improve North Korea’s health care situation. (IANS)