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Powerful Antibiotic in Giant Panda's Blood May Help Combat Microbes: Study

Jan 02, 2013 04:04 AM EST
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Scientists have discovered a strong antibiotic in the blood stream of giant pandas that can help in killing microbes like fungus and bacteria.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Xiuwen Yan, of the Nanjing Agricultural University's Life Sciences College in China, analyzed the DNA of giant pandas and found that the immune system of the endangered animals release an antimicrobial peptide called cathelicidin-AM.

The research team decoded the panda's DNA and isolated the peptide. This way, they were able to artificially produce panda antibiotics. Scientists need not depend on the animal's breeding capacity to create new antibiotics, reports The Telegraph.

The compound is effective in killing microorganisms and protecting the pandas from infections in the wild. It also works faster when compared with other types of antibiotics.

Microbes treated with cathelicidin-AM were killed in less than an hour, while pathogens treated with other antibiotics survived at least for six hours.

Yan and his team believe that the panda antibiotic can be used to develop new treatments against drug-resistant microbes.

"Under the pressure of increasing microorganisms with drug resistance against conventional antibiotics, there is urgent need to develop new type of antimicrobial agents," Yan told The Telegraph.

"Gene-encoded antimicrobial peptides play an important role in innate immunity against noxious microorganisms. They cause much less drug resistance of microbes than conventional antibiotics."

Giant pandas are native to south-central China. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared the pandas as endangered, since the animals are facing major threats due to loss of habitat and slow breeding, both in the wild and in captivity.

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