Thursday, 24 November 2016

10 Amazing and Unexpected Sources Of Antibiotics Used By Scientists.

Weird Sources Of Antibiotics graphic
Image Credit: viviangist.com

Antibiotics play a huge role in keeping humanity from going extinct. Providing our bodies with the necessary firepower required to fight invading pathogens and their associated diseases. Ever since they were first discovered by Scottish biologist, pharmacologist and botanist, Sir Alexander Fleming, these wonder-drugs have continued to be discovered in all sorts of weird places and derived from really strange sources. A lot of the medications that we depend upon today were discovered in some unexpected places. It all started as far back as 1928 when Alexander Fleming discovered the very first antibiotic, penicillin G from the mould Penicillium notatum; the bacteria-killing fungus was growing in an open petri dish that had been accidentally exposed to the air when he went on vacation with his family.

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Another important antibiotic, vancomycin (used to treat an infection of the intestines caused by Clostridium difficile), was first discovered in 1952 when a missionary in Borneo sent a sample of dirt from the jungle to a friend, who happened to be an Organic Chemist.
Cephalosporin, another important class of antibacterial drugs, was first discovered by Giuseppe Brotzu in 1948 from a sewage outfall off the Sardinian coast. And you still think Antibiotics were discovered by Scientists in white coats, working 24 hours non-stop in the lab mixing sugar, spice and everything nice to form a miracle drug.

The search for new antibiotics has taken upon additional urgency, because of warnings that new strains of bacteria are increasingly resistant to our tried-and-true drugs and the problem of Antibacterial resistance is posing a significant threat to our existence killing nearly 700,000 people annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 2 million people in the U.S. become infected with drug-resistant bugs each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a result. That's why scientists, in their exhaustive effort to find replacements drugs, are looking in places that you wouldn't suspect — from Mucus to insect brains. Here's a look at 10 of the weirdest and unexpected sources for antibiotics that researchers have discovered in recent years.

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1. Cockroach Brain.


Cockroach brain graphic
Image Credit: wired.com

I know, weird right? You might think that cockroaches are nasty little creatures (I think they are too), but eventually, they may help to save us from some very deadly infections. In a study conducted in 2010, researchers from the University of Nottingham reported that they had obtained an extract from the crushed brains of both Cockroaches and locusts and this brain-extract was used to kill several different microbes, including a strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli) known for causing bacterial meningitis which is a potentially lethal brain infection, and also methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). That's possible because the central nervous systems of American cockroach species produce natural antibiotics that can kill off bacteria often deadly to humans, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and toxic strains of Escherichia coli. The extract's effectiveness against MRSA was particularly good news because the so-called "superbug" is resistant to most existing antibiotics.It's pretty straightforward if you think about it. These insects are able to survive even the most pathogen-infested environments, they certainly must have a mechanism for self-protection.

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2. Alligator Blood

Alligator blood graphic
Image Credit: newscientist.com

Even after thousands of hours watching Dr Brady Barr battle it out with Alligators and Crocodiles on National Geographic Wild, I still cannot say I'm not scared of these reptiles and I have really good reasons to be – their teeth are sharp with a bite force capable of snapping your leg in two. Researchers, though are interested in the creatures' powerful immune systems, which help them to recover from injuries sustained in wild territorial combat with other Alligators. They see Alligators as a potentially valuable source of powerful new antibiotics that could be used to fight infections associated with diabetic ulcers and severe burns, as well as many superbugs.


In 2008, a study by researchers from McNeese State University and Louisiana State University found that proteins extracted from the white blood cells of Alligators were capable of killing a wide range of bacteria that pose a significant threat to humans. There is one particular alligator blood protein that the McNeese researchers are now trying to replicate that reportedly attaches to the surface of a microbe and then tears a hole in its outer wall to kill it.


3. The Mucus of Catfish.


Mucus of Catfish graphic
Image Credit: aquaculturenorthamerica.com

Catfish are a diverse group of special fish that are named for their whisker-like sensory organs, which resembles the whiskers of a cat. Catfish range in size and behaviour and they are bottom feeders that root around in the muck for smaller creatures to eat, catfish continually are exposed to all sorts of disease-causing microorganisms. But that doesn't seem to hurt them much, which excited scientists' curiosity. Eventually, after carefully conducted research, they discovered that the slimy mucus catfish secrete onto their skin protects them against the bugs that they encounter in their environment.

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In a study published in World Applied Sciences Journal in 2011, Indian researchers collected mucus from the catfish caught in that country's Parangipettai coastal region and tested it against 10 different types of disease-causing bacteria and 10 different fungi. The researchers found that the mucus was very effective in inhibiting the growth of various microbes dangerous to humans.


4. Frog Skin

Frog Skin graphic
Image Credit: laboratoryequipment.com

Frogs are animals well known for their jumping abilities, croaking sounds, bulging eyes, slimy skin and more importantly, the fact that they can live in both land and fresh water habitat. They may look kind of comical with those big bulging eyes and long tongues, but Frogs who have been around for about 300 million years seem to thrive even in polluted waterways that are infested with pathogenic organisms. These animals are amazingly tough, resilient. That's why researchers have started looking to frog skin—or rather, the chemicals found in it—as a potential source of new antibiotics to protect humans against certain disease.

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In 2010, researchers at United Arab Emirates University after studying 6,000 different frog species, claimed they had identified more than 100 potentially bacteria-killing substances that eventually might be developed as drugs. Developing antibiotics from chemicals on frog skin is a difficult feat to achieve because some of the chemicals can be toxic to human cells as well as bacteria. The researchers are trying to get around that problem by gently altering the chemicals' molecular structure to make them less dangerous for people, while still retaining their bacteria-killing properties.


5. Ocean Sediment.


Ocean Sediment graphic
Image Credit: gettyimages.com

Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and It can occur in four forms: skin, inhalation, intestinal, and injection. This microbe can cause a victim to develop a fatal buildup of fluid in the lungs and it is something that we're all afraid of and for good reason. When some malicious person sent a bunch of letters tainted with anthrax through the mail in 2001, 11 people were hospitalised, and five of them ended up dying.
And although anthrax infections can be treated with existing antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin, there's always the possibility that terrorists might create a strain resistant to those drugs. That's one reason why researchers were excited about the discovery of a new compound, anthracimycin, that initial testing showed to be a potent killer of both anthrax and MRSA. Anthracimycin, oddly enough, is produced by a microorganism that the researchers discovered lurking in ocean sediments, just off the shores of Santa Barbara, Calif.

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Possibly because it comes from such an unlikely place, anthracimycin's chemical structure is very different from existing antibiotics. That might make it a lot tougher for microbes to become resistant to it.


6. Panda-panda-panda-panda...

Panda graphic
Image Credit: news.nationalgeographic.com

Ahhh, The Dragon Warrior to the rescue again. With those large, chubby bodies and black-and-white faces and a love for Martial arts and Kung Fu (Kung Fu Panda), pandas seem like the epitome of cute and cuddly. But researchers at China's Nanjing Agricultural University, who studied the endangered animals' DNA, found that their blood contains a powerful antibiotic compound called cathelicidin-AM, which helps to protect them against bacteria and fungi.
The chemical is so potent that it can kill bacteria in less than an hour, about a sixth of a time that it takes most familiar antibiotic drugs to do the job. Researchers are trying to figure out how to turn the chemical into a drug that would work in humans. Fortunately for pandas, whose numbers in the wild are down to an estimated 1,600, scientists don't actually need to extract the substance from actual panda blood. They can make a synthetic version in the lab.


7. Leafcutter Ants


Leafcutter Ants photo
Image Source: huffingtonpost.com

Ever since I saw a Chinese movie where a boy served his Mum Ant soup, I knew from that moment that anything was possibleSouth American leafcutter ants are known mostly for their strength, illustrated by their ability to march through the rainforest while carrying leaf twice their size. But what interests drug researchers, even more, is the tiny creatures' power to thwart microbes. It all has to do with how the ants prepare their food by transporting the leaves underground, where they decay and form a garden of fungus that supplies nutrients to their larvae and queen. To protect their home from unwanted microbes and parasites, the ants have developed an antibiotic-producing bacteria on their bodies. British researchers have discovered that the ants actually produce and use multiple antibiotics, in a way similar to doctors using multi-drug therapy to treat infections in humans.

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One of the chemicals produced by the ants is similar to an antifungal drug already used in modern medicine. But researchers also have hopes of discovering completely new substances that could be useful in fighting human disease


8. LCD Television Screens.


LCD Television Screen photo
Image Credit: sontech.hu

Old TV sets could eventually play a role in protecting you from dangerous infections and researchers at the University of York in England reported in 2010 that they had discovered a way of transforming a chemical compound used in making liquid crystal display (LCD) sets into an antibacterial substance. The chemical from the sets, polyvinyl-alcohol or PVA, was found to destroy microbes such as E. coli and some strains of Staphylococcus aureus. Sounds crazy right? Tell that to the unfortunate microbes involved in these experiments.

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In order to convert the chemical waste into an antibiotic, researchers heated and cooled the PVA, then dehydrated it with ethanol. Next, they added silver nanoparticles to enhance its antimicrobial properties. Researchers may use the chemical to develop antimicrobial cleaning products that could reduce hospital patients' risk of infection.


9. Marijuana:


Marijuana photo
Image Credit: edition.cnn.com

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Its use is widespread among young people all over the world. Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a preparation of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or medicine.Though illegal generally, Marijuana has been legalised in many U.S. states for medical purposes only, such as nausea relief and as a treatment for anxiety. But there's also a possibility that Cannabis sativa, the plant from which marijuana is produced, may also have antibacterial properties.

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In 2008, researchers in Italy and Great Britain reported that five different chemicals extracted from marijuana were effective in killing MRSA. The cannabinoids, as the chemicals are called, attacked the microbes in a manner that was different from conventional antibiotics, which suggests that they might work on other germs that have developed drug resistance as well.


10. Lechuguilla Killer Cave Bacteria.


Lechuguilla Killer Cave Bacteria graphic
Image Credit: lechuguillacave.com
Remote Lechuguilla Cave,  as of June 2013, is the seventh-longest explored cave in the world and the deepest in the United States (1,604 feet or 489 meters), but it is most famous for its unusual geology, rare formations, and pristine condition. It's not just the cave's size or its breathtaking 20-foot (6-meter)- tall gypsum chandeliers and other exotic rock formations that fascinate scientific researchers. The cave is also home to an assortment of rock-eating bacteria that feed on the sulphur, iron and manganese deposits found inside
Scientists have been collecting samples of these microorganisms in an effort to find new potential antibiotics. One promising example is a microscopic predator that goes after other bacteria. Scientists hope that one of these microorganisms may extend the life of Cubicin, currently a drug of last resort against MSRA.

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Source: science.howstuffworks.com
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