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Gator Blood May Be New Source of Antibiotics
Date:4/7/2008

Early research shows proteins from the reptiles can fight off 'superbugs'

MONDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Call it a case of gator aid. New research suggests that alligator blood could serve as the basis for new antibiotics targeting infections caused by ulcers, burns and even drug-resistant "superbugs."

The research is in its early stages -- extracts of alligator blood have only been tested in the laboratory -- and there's no guarantee that it will work in humans. Still, the findings are promising, researchers said.

"We need new antibiotics. Anything like this is a step forward," said Dr. Stuart Levy, a professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, who's an expert in antibiotic-resistant infections and is familiar with the new study. "But there are hurdles that this kind of antibiotic poses that others might not."

The study authors, from McNeese State University and Louisiana State University, said their research is the first to take an in-depth look at alligator blood's prospects as an antibiotic source. According to the researchers, alligators can automatically fight germs such as bacteria and viruses without having been exposed to them before launching a defense.

For the study, the researchers extracted proteins known as peptides from white cells in alligator blood. As in humans, white cells are part of the alligator's immune system. The researchers then exposed various types of bacteria to the protein extracts and watched to see what happened.

In laboratory tests, tiny amounts of these protein extracts killed a so-called "superbug" called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The bacteria has made headlines in recent years because of its killing power in hospitals and its spread among athletes and others outside of hospitals.

The extracts also killed six of eight strains of a fungus known as Candida albicans, which causes a condition known as th
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