Alligator Blood: The New Treatment Option
If you have kids or grandkids, you’ve probably heard about how certain infections are becoming resistant to traditional treatments, including antibiotics such as penicillin. So what can be done? Do scientists have to invent new antibiotics to combat these resistant strains? Well, one option isn’t necessarily an invention – but it sure is a discovery! A recent study reveals that the proteins in alligator blood could be a powerful source of antibiotics to use against resistant infections. Let’s take a closer look at this “wild” possibility . . .
If you have kids or grandkids, you’ve probably heard about how certain infections are becoming resistant to traditional treatments, including antibiotics such as penicillin. It’s kind of hard to believe, isn’t it? I always thought that penicillin could cure just about anything. Well, at least my mom thought that when I was growing up!
Most recently there’s been concern about an infection called MRSA, which has been running rampant in schools, gyms and fitness centers. MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is just one of the infection strains that have become resistant to several common antibiotics.
So what can be done? Do scientists have to invent new antibiotics to combat these resistant strains?
Well, one option isn’t necessarily an invention – but it sure is a discovery! A recent study has revealed that the proteins in alligator blood could be a powerful source of antibiotics to use against the superbugs that are resistant to conventional medicines.
Alligator blood? Wow! Let’s take a closer look at this “wild” possibility . . .
A number of doctors and scientists were involved in this discovery, including Dr. Mark Merchant, a biochemist at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana and Dr. Kermit Murray and Dr. Lancia Darville, both of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. The details of the study were recently presented at the American Chemical Society in New Orleans, and a report was published in an April 9 article of Medical News Today.
This is the first time that alligator blood has been researched for its antibiotic elements. Merchants and colleagues have found other potential uses for the antibiotic proteins in alligator blood. These potential uses can be for treating infections caused by the yeast Candida albicans, which is a serious problem for patients with weak immune systems. An example is people being treated with AIDS or who have received an organ transplant.
In a press statement Merchant said they were "very excited" about the potential of the alligator blood proteins, both as antibacterial and antifungal agents. "There's a real possibility that you could be treated with an alligator blood product one day," he added.
In previous research projects, alligators have been proven to have an immune system that is different from a human’s immune system. An alligator’s immune system is very strong and helps it to heal rapidly. This is why the alligator can sustain significant wounds when another creature could not. It is a survival mechanism for the alligator to help protect itself from the wounds of a territorial fight.
An alligator’s immune system can combat microorganisms such as fungi, viruses and bacteria. This is an unusual trait. It can even have this effect if it has not been exposed to these microorganisms before.
According to Medical News Today, Dr. Merchant isolated white blood cells (called leucocytes) that fight disease organisms from blood samples that were taken from American alligators. They then extracted their active proteins.
The potency of alligator blood was also tested against Candida albicans. The findings were that it killed six of the eight different strains of the yeast. Earlier studies showed that the proteins could also help fight against HIV. And there is potential that it could combat MRSA’s two types of infections (there is the Hospital-associated MRSA that is originated in healthcare settings and there is the Community-associated MRSA that happens when people have close skin-to-skin contact, such as athletes involved in wrestling or football).
Merchant has said that the chemical composition still needs to be determined, but that the medicine would be developed in the form of an ointment.
Alligator blood could also be used for treating other serious infections and burns. It would be beneficial if this could be a new option for diabetics and their foot ulcers, especially with the new studies coming out on the negative effects of current foot ointments. And, possibly it could be used for protecting burned skin from infection. The possibilities are endless.
It could be on the market within ten years.
Merchant plans to study the disease fighting properties of blood from other reptiles. This could be the beginning of a new transformation in medicine.
However, there is a warning to this finding - do not try to create your own alligator blood medicine because unprocessed alligator blood is dangerous and can kill you if it is injected into your blood. I’m not sure where you would find alligator blood, but who knows!
What will the future bring?
While the possibility of a usable product is still a few years away, it’s promising that options like this are being investigated. Just imagine what other kinds of discoveries will come about.
Well, that’s it for now. See you later, alligator . . . (sorry, had to get that in)