The researchers, who presented their findings April6 at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans, said the blood extract could be used to develop an antibiotic in a topical cream form. They suggest that it could be called "alligacin."
Levy said the human body might reject alligator proteins, thinking they're foreign invaders. "Our bodies love to make antibodies to proteins," he said. "After you get the first dose, the body sees it as foreign, and the next dose gets scooped up by the immune system, and it's done."
But study lead author Lancia Darville, a doctoral student at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., said scientists might be able to create drugs that copy the blood proteins once they figure out their structure. The idea would be to make a chemical that the body doesn't think is a protein. Even so, Darville said, "it is not easy to mimic any antimicrobial peptide for clinical use."
Levy noted that many pharmaceutical companies have stopped investigating new antibiotics, because other areas of medicine are more profitable. The gap "has to be filled by more discovery," said Levy, who's also president of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics.
The study authors said alligator blood could become a drug source for humans within a decade.
Still, Emily Ackiss, a clinical epidemiologist at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista, Calif., who's familiar with the study findings, said, "The research discussed in this article is basic research. More extensive research and experimentation are needed before drug development could be expected."
Learn more about alligators from the University of Florida.
SOURCES: Lancia Darville, doctoral stude
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