Image: Mark Dumont, Wikimedia Commons

Compounds found in the blood of Komodo dragons could be the key to ending antibiotic resistance — and help save the population from the imminent threat of “superbugs”. 

One of the most prevalent problems in today’s medical world is an increasing resistance to life-saving antibiotic drugs. Easily treatable illnesses could soon be a thing of the past, leading to a terrifying reversion in the progress of modern medicine.

An overuse of drugs in everyday life and agricultural practices has led to the development of dangerous strains of bacteria formerly counteracted with effective, broad-spectrum antibiotics. But the world is changing — and bacteria is changing with it.

Enter: the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis). These huge monitor lizards are the largest on earth, growing to more than 10 feet in length and weighing up to 150 pounds. Komodos are a niche species and apex predators found solely in the Indonesian islands, a contributing factor to their gigantism.

(Read more about this interesting animal)

Image: William Warby, Flickr

These creatures have extremely dirty mouths containing more than fifty different strains of bacteria. Komodo dragons are capable of sustaining harrowing wounds from other dragons and accomplishing quick, complete recoveries. This unusual bacterial resistance has captured the rapt attention of interested scientists.

Cationic antimicrobial peptides also known as CAMPs are utilized by the body to fight off bacterial growth. While humans possess some versions of these substances, the blood of Komodo dragons was found to contain 47 powerfully antimicrobial peptides.

Scientists were able to use mass spectrometry and electron manipulation to draw these compounds out of the their blood. Eight synthesized versions were tested against two strains of superbugs Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus and then evaluated for efficacy.

To scientists’ amazement, seven of these peptides displayed impressive potency against both strains.

The utilization of Komodo blood in the development of new therapies to combat antibiotic resistance could mean a turning point in modern medicine.

The complete findings were published in the Journal of Proteome Research.