London: A toxic ladybird that threatens to wipe out native species may hold the key to fight against tuberculosis, malaria and drug-resistant MRSA infection, scientists say.
In laboratory tests, researchers at the University of Wurzburg in Germany found that a sticky blood-like substance produced by the harlequin ladybird killed germs from TB to MRSA and the malaria parasite.
The findings lay the foundation for new antibiotics, the scientists said.
The harlequin ladybird, whose bite can trigger an allergic reaction, releases a cocktail of foul-smelling chemicals through its knee joints when under threat from predators.
The chemicals, known as `reflex blood`, have been best-known for staining furniture.
But the new research found that one chemical in the cocktail is a powerful antibiotic, the Daily Mail reported.
In lab tests, the German researchers found the "harmonine" chemical combated 12 types of bacteria, including the E coli stomach bug, the MRSA superbugs and the germ behind TB.
It was also found effective against the malaria parasite at "remarkably low concentrations", the researchers said, adding that the findings could help explain the secret of the harlequin ladybird`s success.
Writing in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, they said: "The broad-spectrum anti-microbial activity observed demonstrates that harmonine is an important factor in beetle immunity."
They said that while the substance wasn`t as good as conventional drugs at killing the germs, discovering how it works could lead to the development of new medicines.
However, as harmonine also seems to kill cells in the human body, it would have to be substantially modified before use, the researchers added.