Growing up to 3 metres (around 9.8 feet) in length and weighing up to 70 kg, the Komodo Dragon is the world’s largest lizard. Found mainly on small islands of Indonesia, this giant lizard with its massive size, long claws and sharp teeth has the potential to feast on prey as large as water buffalo and wildebeests. But, there’s also another reason why you shouldn’t get close to it and definitely don’t want to get bitten by it.
Previous studies have found that the mouths of Komodo Dragons contain up to 57 different and extremely dangerous kinds of bacteria. Although it's unspecified where these bacteria come from, scientists have suggested that it originates from the dragon’s drinking from the sewage-contaminated water sources.
Now, researchers have found how these massive lizards became resistant to having such deadly bacteria in their mouth.
According to researchers, protein fragments found in the blood of Komodo dragons have antimicrobial properties that help them resist toxic bacteria, and they could be used to develop new drugs to counter antibiotic resistance.
A research team from the George Mason University took a sample of blood from the Komodo Dragons and examined it to see if they could find traces of Cationic Antimicrobial Peptides (CAMPs), which are protein fragments produced by almost all living creatures and work as an essential part of the innate immune system.
“It's that part of your immune system that keeps you alive in the two or three weeks before you can make antibodies to a bacterial infection,” biochemist Monique Van Hoek said. “It's part of your generalised immune response to the world.”
Researchers used a technique which they developed in the lab wherein they used negatively charged nanoparticles made from hydrogel to capture peptides in the blood samples. After subsequent analysis, they discovered 48 potential CAMPs.
From the 48 identified, 47 of the peptides were derived from histone proteins, which are known to have antimicrobial properties.
The research team initially synthesised eight of these peptides and tested them against two particularly dangerous kinds of bacteria which are labelled as the 'superbugs’, viz Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.
However, out of the eight synthesised peptides, seven were powerful enough at destroying both the bacteria in lab-grown cultures, while the remaining one was only effective against Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Nonetheless, the researchers hope that future studies of these peptides could lead to new antibiotic medications that can fight deadly superbugs, as well as will be helpful to establish how these CAMPs are so effective against this very real threat.
“While our bioprospecting approach establishes sequences of the intact native peptides that are present in the sample, it does not provide information regarding the mechanisms by which they are produced or their regulation,” a paper published by the research team reads, adding, “future efforts will focus on determining whether peptides are constitutively produced or the result of pathogen detection, as well as whether this phenomenon is limited to Komodo dragons or if it occurs in other species, including human.”
Information source: sciencealert
Title image: remotelands