Komodo Dragon Blood May Hold the Secret to Killing Superbugs

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria take 700,000 lives a year. The carrion-eating lizard boasts potentially lifesaving peptides.

The blood of the endangered Komodo dragon is known for its toxicity, but the world’s largest lizard also appears impervious to disease and infection. A team of researchers who spent the past four years analyzing Komodo blood discovered it’s loaded with compounds that could be used as antibiotics. They say they’re hoping to turn those compounds into drugs that may be worth billions of dollars and save millions of lives. “I’ve got a 6-year-old daughter who sleeps on a stuffed Komodo,” says lead researcher Barney Bishop. “I’d like her to grow up in a world with effective antibiotics.”

5 miles: the distance at which Komodos can “smell” tasty corpses with their tongues.

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Immunity
Komodos regularly eat carrion but rarely fall ill because they carry proteins called antimicrobial peptides, an all-purpose infection defense.

Study
The researchers analyzed blood samples from captive Komodos in Florida using a mass spectrometer to identify peptides with drug potential.

Stakes
Bishop, a biochemistry professor at George Mason University, says his team is betting Komodo blood can help battle antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which kill about 700,000 people a year.

Targets
Komodo peptides may be a good match for bacteria that cause staph infections, inner ear and burn infections, dermatitis, pneumonia, and cystic fibrosis, Bishop says.

Funding
The Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency contributed $7.6 million to Bishop’s research.

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