The team discovered different antimicrobial peptides in the dog but was most interested in canine cathelicidin, commonly abbreviated as K9CATH. Cathelicidins are peptides that play a central role in the early innate immunity against infections.
While animals like domestic cattle and buffalo have several different cathelicidins to help fight infections, dogs have only one type of cathelicidin peptide. This led the team to speculate that the sole cathelicidin in canines is extremely strong.
"Although a dog may be stronger immunologically speaking than a human and many other animals, it's not the strongest animal on Earth," Melgarejo said. "When I worked in the clinical sciences I regularly treated dogs for diarrhea, coughing, ear infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis and other diseases. So it's evidently not as sturdy of an animal as it could be."
Because dogs are considered man's best friend, the researchers wanted to be dogs' best friend, too. Using the canine genome -- the genetic blueprint of the domestic dog -- the team applied the canine cathelicidin as a temple to develop a synthetic antimicrobial with enhanced biological activity.
Melgarejo and Blecha, along with Annika Linde, research associate, and Kate Osei-Boadi, a doctoral candidate in human nutrition, Ghana, are continuing to develop the synthesized cathelicidin as well as explore new avenues to strengthen it. This currently includes studying hyenas, which are one of the most resilient animals in nature.
Researchers are also in the process of establishing a partnership with the Kansas Bioscience Authority to test the synthesized peptide against canine leishmaniasis, which is a tropical disease that is on the rise. The disease is zoonotic, meaning that it spreads from dogs to
|Contact: Tonatiuh Melgarejo|
Kansas State University