September 7, 2010

Cockroaches Possible Source Of Next-Gen Antibiotics

They reportedly can go 45 minutes without air, they can go for up to a month without food, and an old urban legend suggests that they might even be able to survive a nuclear war.

Now, scientists believe that they might be able to harness the hardiness of cockroaches in order to help us survive severe infections and illnesses caused by bacterial superbugs.

According to a Monday press release, scientists from the UK's University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine and Science have found that the brains of insects such as cockroaches and locusts contain "powerful antibiotic properties...which could lead to novel treatments for multi-drug resistant bacterial infections."

"They found that the tissues of the brain and nervous system of the insects were able to kill more than 90-percent of MRSA [methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus] and pathogenic Escherichia coli, without harming human cells," the press release added.

The findings were announced as part of the Society for General Microbiology's (SGM) autumn conference, which started on Monday and was scheduled to end on September 9.

"They must have some sort of defense against micro organisms," lead author and postgraduate researcher Simon Lee told BBC News on Monday. "We think their nervous system needs to be continuously protected because if the nervous system goes down the insect dies. But they can suffer damage to their peripheral structures without dying."

"A kill rate of 90% is very very high, and I diluted the substance down so there was only a minute amount there," he added. "Conventional antibiotics reduce the number of the bacteria and let your immune system cope with the rest. So to get something with such a high kill rate that is so potent at such a low dose is very promising."

According to AFP reports, the research--while promising--is currently still in its early phases.


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