Friday, October 7, 2011

Alligators, Pseudomonas, & Human Welfare

Alligator (above) JCM, Pseudomonas
Human welfare may very much depend upon biodiversity. No matter how you feel about the environment, no matter how greedy you are, you will get sick at some point and your health problem will more than likely be treated with a product that its molecular origin in an organism. Stories about superbugs, pathogens that have evolved resistance to known antibiotics, are a regular feature on the nightly news. Getting a superbug is frequently associated with a visit to a hospital, a place with lots of germs and where people are treated with many antibiotics.  Solutions to antibiotic resistance will likely be solved with more molecules from organisms. Linking human welfare to biodiversity provides a window of opportunity to educate the ignorant masses unable to find value in protecting the biosphere and changing their attitudes toward nature. More than 60% of all pharmaceuticals originate from  molecules found in organisms. Loss of biodiversity is a loss of potential future medicines. Venkata Machha and colleagues (2011) report the results of testing bacteria resistance to antibiotics with a refined leukocyte extract from the American Alligator. The alligator blood extract exhibited the strongest antibacterial effect on Pseudomonas aeruginosa followed by Enterococcus faecium and then Klebsiella pneumonia. The antibacterial activities were acid-soluble, heat-stable at 70oC for one hour, sensitive to protease treatment, and did not require divalent metal ions for antibacterial activity. Taken together their data suggest that the molecule(s) responsible for the observed antibacterial activities are small, cationic antimicrobial peptides. Why is it that alligator blood is so effective against antibiotic resistant bacteria. Think about where alligators live - dirty water and add to this the fact that they frequently get injured taking prey or fighting with other gators. Those injuries are exposed to all of those nasty bacteria and alligator immune systems have evolved the means to overcome the pathogens. The article is available on-line.

Machha, V., P. Spencer and M. Merchant 2011. Effects of Leukocyte Extract from the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) on Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. The Open Zoology Journal 4:9-13 [DOI: 10.2174/1874336601104010009]

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