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Giant pandas could be source of new drugs

Dec. 31, 2012 at 5:14 PM   |   Comments

BEIJING, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Giant pandas produce a powerful antibiotic in their blood stream that may be a rich source of powerful new drugs, Chinese scientists say.

The substance, which kills bacteria and fungi, could lead to new treatments against drug resistant superbugs and other diseases, they said.

Researchers at Nanjing Agricultural University identified the substance, cathelicidin-AM, by analyzing panda DNA, The Daily Telegraph of London reported Sunday.

Scientist say they believe the panda's immune system produces the compound to protect them from infections they are exposed to living in the wild.

The compound could lead to drugs for humans, the researchers said.

"It showed potential antimicrobial activities against wide spectrum of microorganisms including bacteria and fungi, both standard and drug-resistant strains," lead researchers Xiuwen Yan of the university's Life Sciences College said.

"Under the pressure of increasing microorganisms with drug resistance against conventional antibiotics, there is urgent need to develop new type of antimicrobial agents."

The researchers reported they've managed to synthesize the compound in the lab by decoding the genes to produce a small molecule known as a peptide.

"Gene-encoded antimicrobial peptides play an important role in innate immunity against noxious microorganisms," Xiuwen said. "They cause much less drug resistance of microbes than conventional antibiotics."

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