Superbug Weapon: Panda Blood?

And, good news, scientists can produce synthetic version

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 31, 2012 9:07 AM CST | Updated Jan 5, 2013 1:31 PM CST

(Newser) – Our latest weapon in the battle against superbugs comes from ... giant pandas? Apparently. Scientists have discovered a potent antibiotic called cathelicidin-AM in the animal's blood. It's released by immune cells there, and Chinese researchers now think it could be used to develop treatments for human diseases—including drug-resistant superbugs. Among their proof: Cathelicidin-AM took less than an hour to kill bacteria that other, more well-known antibiotics took more than six hours to destroy.

Explains the lead researcher of the substance, "It showed potential antimicrobial activities against a wide spectrum of microorganisms including bacteria and fungi, both standard and drug-resistant strains." Of course, there are just 1,600 giant pandas in the wild, and they're well known for being poor breeders. But we may not be forced to harvest the compound from natural sources: Scientists have been able to decode the genes and produce an artificial version of the antibiotic in a lab setting, the Telegraph reports.

Female Giant Panda "Jia Jia", one of two Giant Pandas from China is seen in its enclosure on Monday Oct. 29, 2012 in Singapore.   (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
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