Blood of Komodo Dragon May Hold Key to Developing New Antibiotics, Study Shows

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Apr 19, 2017 05:44 AM EDT

LONDON - JULY 12: Raja the Komodo dragon, the latest addition to London Zoo as part of an international conservation programme, is seen on June 12, 2004 at London zoo in London. Visitors can come face to face with London Zoo's 2.2 metre long male as he prowls his new state-of -the-art dragon's lair complete with a gory replica of his prey in the form of a model of a deer carcass. (Photo : Steve Finn/Getty Images)

The Komodo dragon is the world's largest lizard. Its bite is so poisonous that the victim could die of sepsis or blood poisoning. However, a new study reveals that the blood of this reptile may hold the key for developing new antibiotics.

According to BBC News, scientists at George Mason University developed a synthetic compound derived from a molecule in the blood of the Komodo Dragon that possessed antimicrobial activity. The study published in NPJ Biofilms and Microbiomes promoted the possible use of the protein on future antibiotics.

The compound developed from the blood of the Komodo dragon was named DRGN-1. The research team, led by Monique van Hoek, revealed that the compound proved effective on infected wounds in mice against two bacterial strains-the so-called "superbugs" Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphlyococcus aureus or MRSA. These strains are stubborn and difficult to treat as they tend to stick together. They are also resistant to antibiotics.

The researchers revealed that while DRGN-1 has only been tested on mice and two bacteria strains, it laid the groundwork for further studies and can be developed as a topical therapeutic agent for infected wounds. The compound is effective in wound healing due to its antimicrobial properties and also promotes migration of skin cells to effectively close the wound.

Medical News Today revealed that there is a need to develop new antimicrobial medicines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 2 million people in the US become infected with drug-resistant bacteria and at least 23,000 die as a direct result every year. The bacterium Clostridium difficile is one of the biggest threats contributing 250,000 infections and 14,000 deaths annually.

The Komodo dragon can grow up to 10 feet long. However, it has one unique characteristic and that is they rarely become ill despite eating decaying flesh and a saliva that contains harmful bacteria. According to the team of van Hoek, this is because the reptile has a peptide found in their blood called VK25. Upon analysis, the researchers found that it had mild antimicrobial properties and are able to prevent biofilms, or microorganisms that stick together.

Tested on mice, synthetic VK25 attacked and destroyed the biofilms on the wounds before killing the two bacterial strains resulting to a faster wound-healing process. The researchers will now test DRGN-1 as a topical wound healing product for animals.

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