Pandas’ blood may hold key to new antibiotics

New York: Pandas produce a strong antibiotic in their blood that fights against drug-resistant superbugs – Chinese researchers have found.

The antibiotic compound, cathelicidin-AM, destroys both fungi and bacteria, and is released by the animal’s immune system to ward off infections.

Scientists at Life Sciences College of Nanjing Agricultural University in China found cathelicidin-AM while studying pandas’ DNA, the New York Daily News reported.

The powerful compound can kill bacteria in under an hour, whereas most well-known antibiotics take at least six times longer than that.

The discovery has important implications for humans, as researchers work to find new ways to combat increasingly potent strains of bacteria.

Dr. Xiuwen Yan, the study’s lead researcher, told the Telegraph that there is an urgent need to develop new type of antimicrobial agents to fight drug-resistant superbugs.

Antibiotics produced in animals’ bloodstreams, like that of the panda, have a much smaller chance of causing drug-resistant strains of bacteria, Dr. Xiuwen Yan, the study’s lead researcher, explained.

The new research may provide a much-needed push to save panda; only about 1,600 exist in the wild.

Researchers are now working to find ways to transform that peptide into a drug that fights bacteria – or into an antiseptic that kills germs.

Yan said it is also possible that similar antibiotics are produced in other animals.

Close compounds have been found in the mucus of snails and other amphibians.