Have Superbugs Like MRSA Found Their Match?

By: John Sweet

Despite their reputation for deadly attacks on humans and pets, alligators are finding their way toward a new role as potential lifesavers in medicine.
Biochemists in Louisiana at the 235th national meeting of the American Chemical Society reported that gator blood may provide a source of powerful new antibiotics to help fight infections associated with diabetic ulcers, severe burns, and "superbugs" that are resistant to conventional medication.

Recently a National Geographic team that studied crocodiles in Australia and America reported that an antidote in crocodiles and alligators kills bacteria which is normally untreatable with normal antibiotics.

The crocodile expert, Dr Adam Britton says they are territorial and often fight each other. When they do, they can lose limbs and are sometimes left with gaping wounds. Regardless of these gruesome injuries and the fact that their environment is conducive to serious infection (and possibly death), the crocodiles heal very fast with minimal infection. That proves that they are immune to bacterial infections.

Scientists took blood samples from crocodiles to establish why they don't get sick and found they have what they describe as an "unusual anti-microbic
peptide".

Where the new 'super' product has been applied to HIV, West Nile virus and E-coli, these have diminished.

The problem however is that the product cannot simply be harvested and injected into humans - the body will immediately realise it is 'foreign' and reject it. The fat of crocodiles can however be rubbed into the skin and should benefit from the 'super peptides'.

"We're very excited about the potential of these alligator blood proteins as both antibacterial and antifungal agents," says study co-author Mark Merchant, Ph.D., a biochemist at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La. "There's a real possibility that you could be treated with an alligator blood product one day."

When the alligator serum was exposed to HIV the researchers found that a good amount of the virus was destroyed.

The study team thinks that pills and creams containing reptile peptides could be available at local pharmacies within seven to ten years. But already there is a company in South Africa which has been producing a skin balm made from crocodile oil since 2005 known as Repcillin.

"It is a 100% natural skin balm and it is available now but only in small quantities.

Does this mean the end of the crocodile?

"No" say Repcillin, the manufacturers of crocodile oil products. "People farm with them for their meat as they would with chickens and cattle. The meat is low in cholesterol and is a delicacy in restaurants all over the world. There is less than 300g fat on a single crocodile. Medicinal crocodile oil is harvested from the fat which is a waste product and normally disposed of unless it is used for medical purposes.

This natural oil is healing numerous skin problems around the world, but there is not enough available for the mass market.

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