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Medicine Science

Alligator Blood May Be Source of New Antibiotics 265

Posted by Zonk
from the darn-tasty-eating-too dept.
esocid writes "Biochemists from McNeese State University have described how proteins in gator blood may provide a source of powerful new antibiotics to help fight infections associated with diabetic ulcers and severe burns. This new class of drug could also crack so-called 'superbugs' that are resistant to conventional medication. Previous studies have showed alligators have an unusually strong immune system; unlike humans, alligator immune systems can defend against microorganisms such as fungi, viruses, and bacteria without having prior exposure to them. Scientists believe that this is an evolutionary adaptation to promote quick wound healing, as alligators are often injured during fierce territorial battles."
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Alligator Blood May Be Source of New Antibiotics

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  • Cue TMNTs (Score:4, Funny)

    by esocid (946821) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:17AM (#23000688) Journal
    I just can't shake the image of leatherhead from teenage mutant ninja turtles from my mind now. whatcouldpossiblygowrong?
    • by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan DOT jared AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:36AM (#23000938)
      I'll tell you what could go wrong:

      evolutionary adaptation to promote quick wound healing

      An angry Wolverine, the four horseman Wolverine to be exact, sues for prior art, and on a technicality gains control of the entire human population's genome. This would quite literally usher in "the" Apocolypse.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jaymzter (452402)
      In related news, Dr Curt Connors of Everglades Patch, Florida has filed a patent suit against the University for misappropriation of his intellectual property.
    • Funny, my first thought was of Spiderman's enemy, the Lizard.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Stonent1 (594886)
      The problem is, alligator is not Kosher and probably not Halal (but I don't know for sure). I'm not sure how animal products work into medications, but some such as Armour Thyroid use dessicated pork thyroid glands as an ingredient and may not be Kosher.
      • Re:Cue TMNTs (Score:4, Insightful)

        by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @12:22PM (#23001564) Homepage Journal
        I'm going to get flamed for this but here goes anyway: if someone let's their religion dictate what medication or treatment they can or cannot receive, they have no one but themselves to blame for their illnesses or early death.


        Like this couple [groundreport.com] for example. I'm sure there are hundreds of other similar cases you can find with little effort.

        The joke about a doctor asking their patient if they believe in ID or evolution determining whether they get a flu shot is very appropriate in this situation.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bryansix (761547)
          I believe in ID as well as Micro-Evolution so I'll take that flu shot thank you very much.
      • Re:Cue TMNTs (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MrNaz (730548) * on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @12:34PM (#23001724) Homepage
        I am a Muslim, and I can say that in Islam, there is a blanket overruling of all prohibited substances in the course of saving a life, such as eating pork in starvation situations or deriving medicine from alcoholic sources. Deriving medication from pigs would be allowed, and so too would medicine from alligator blood.

        Most opiate analgesics and anaesthetics are, for example, prohibited under the intoxication rule (the one that prohibits alcohol), but are allowed in medical situations. Same for alcohol used in field treatment of hypothermia and other emergency situations.

        I'm not sure about the Kosher rules in Judaism, but in Islam, any substance of medicinal value is permitted if necessary for the health of the patient.

        This rule is conscience based I guess, for all of you thinking of that Simpsons episode where the blind guy was smoking weed for "medicinal purposes".
        • Re:Cue TMNTs (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @01:21PM (#23002426)
          As far as I understand, the same is true in Judaism. The "laws of kashrut" are overruled when one's life or health is at stake.

          It may be helpful to add that Orthadox Jews traditionally keep kosher on a voluntary, not compulsory, basis. That is, the rules are followed in order to honor god, not because there is some terrible consequence or threat involved if they do not do so. It is not a "keep kosher or go to hell" kind of thing. It is more like "God asks that we keep kosher. We love and honor god, so we will therefore, as a practice of worship and respect, keep kosher as god requests."
  • by ben0207 (845105) <ben.burtonNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:19AM (#23000700) Homepage
    Were they hoping people wouldn't associate a wonderdrug from a reptile (this shite) with the common phrase "snake oil" (a wonderdrug from a reptile)
  • superbugs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by biased_estimator (1222498) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:20AM (#23000714)

    This new class of drug could also crack so-called 'superbugs' that are resistant to conventional medication.
    Sure, until we use these new antibiotics so recklessly (or simply so often) that we select for resistant strains.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:25AM (#23000774)
      But then we can harvest the proteins from the white blood cells of a different, and even more awesome animal. Everyone wins.
      • by arotenbe (1203922) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @02:50PM (#23003702) Journal

        But then we can harvest the proteins from the white blood cells of a different, and even more awesome animal.
        Sharks with lasers! Aw, dang, someone got it first...

        [runs from moderators with anti-meme missiles]
      • Re:superbugs (Score:4, Interesting)

        by SimonInOz (579741) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @06:46PM (#23006384)
        Yes indeed. There are a fair number of different animals that fight a lot and thus should be good at recovery - the Tasmanian Devil comes to mind (nasty vicious thing, currently dying out rather, due to a transmissible cancer spread by, ironically, biting each other). Being very different from the alligator is a good thing here.
        Has anyone every looked into vultures - after all, they eat dead carcasses, they must be exposed to quite astounding levels of bugs.
        Not to mention other things that eat dead bodies - ants, for example.

        And what about vampires ... sorry, drifted off. I'm really missing my weekly dose of Buffy.

    • Re:superbugs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by snl2587 (1177409) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:33AM (#23000884)

      Sure, until we use these new antibiotics so recklessly (or simply so often) that we select for resistant strains.

      The fact that people will misuse drugs does not mean we shouldn't make them available. If you read TFA you'll see:

      Their previous research also suggests that blood proteins may help fight HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

      I'd say the possible faster introduction of superbugs may be worth the risk if we can at least try.

      • Re:superbugs (Score:5, Insightful)

        by speaktruth (1082461) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @12:04PM (#23001332)
        "The fact that people will misuse drugs does not mean we shouldn't make them available."

        Someone should probably tell that to the DEA before we waste any more resources on this whole war on drugs thing.
        • by snl2587 (1177409)

          I meant medical drugs...though I do agree with the sentiment and making certain drugs illegal causes more net harm than net good. Different discussion entirely, though.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by speaktruth (1082461)
            Two things: first, I understand that you were talking about medical drugs, and do not want to be misconstrued as a proponent of narcotic legalization. Which brings me to my second point that I was alluding to-but did not explain-in my earlier post. Our culture is a drug culture. We are convinced and teach our children that when they have a problem, an illness, there is almost always a drug that can solve that problem. Is it any wonder then that when people have problems they take a drug that will make th
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sjames (1099)

            Of course, getting half decent anti-histamine tablets is a problem now because someone might make crystal meth out of them. When perfectly legitimate drugs start to disappear because someone might mis-use them, everyone but the DEA loses.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by spun (1352)
          It's a funny thing, but 'drugs' and 'drugs' mean two completely different things depending on who is profiting from them.
      • Re:superbugs (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 0xABADC0DA (867955) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @12:31PM (#23001686)
        What it boils down to is that this reasearch is going to end up killing alligators by making immune germs so that we can raise pigs and chickens under worse conditions. That's what we are talking about really.

        Humans need newer antibiotics because we wasted them growing pigs and chickens, and reducing the puss in milk from overproducing cows. Also, even if this 'cures' HIV the benefit is not so much in saving lives but more in protecting a social order that allows it to spread.

        This will certainly result in a sad reflection on our society, that we would contribute to the destruction of animals that have been around for hundreds of millions of years. So we can have our pork sandwich for lunch for $0.50 less. But hey since we're giving a collective 'fuck you' to the world anyway, why not?
        • Re:superbugs (Score:5, Insightful)

          by snl2587 (1177409) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @12:41PM (#23001834)

          Whoa, man. We're talking proteins in the blood...after the initial research it will probably be more practical to produce them synthetically.

          I take it you're not a fan of medical research as it runs opposed to the natural order of things. But if we are in relative control of our own evolution at the moment, why should we allow our species to disappear? If the whole point of life is to propagate, and we have mechanisms in place to accomplish this basic task better, wouldn't it be against nature to do the opposite?

          I find your comment interesting for another reason: you typed your comment on a computer, right? One of the byproducts of modern eco-destructive society? And you likely live in a modern house, use electricity, eat those "pork sandwiches", and probably have benefited from past medical research. The hypocrisy is stunning.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by 0xABADC0DA (867955)
            Of course it will "probably" be more practical to produce the antibiotics in some way other than making huge alligator farms. That's pretty obvious.

            What's also obvious is that a bacteria that can invade a single alligator does not get much benefit in terms of survival of those genes that enable it to. But when the antibiotic is found literally everywhere in the ecosystem, like our current antibiotics are, then having a gene that enables it to survive the antibiotic is a huge benefit for its survival. Thu
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ClintJCL (264898)
      So you're saying if I'm sick, and I'm not sure if antibiotics may help or not, that I should NOT take them, increasing my risk of actually getting ill --- so that some schmuck 20 years from now doesn't die of an antibiotic-resistant strain that developed?

      How about scientists do their job and stay ahead of the diseases, rather than asking me to GET SICK NOW just to give them more time to find new cures?

      Why the hell should I take one for THIS team?

    • Regarding 'superbugs'.
      I know that it's already possible to cure that type of infections with bacteriophages with success rate above 80% (about 95% for Staphylococcus aureus). Since last 27 years Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy of Polish Academy of Sciences (located in Wroclaw) have been involved in curing about 1500 people with suppurative bacterial infections, in which a routine antibiotic therapy failed.

      http://www.iitd.pan.wroc.pl/phages/phages.html [pan.wroc.pl]

      This is not a secret thing, so mos

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:21AM (#23000730) Homepage Journal
    Let alone they eat about anything which doesn't eat them first.

    My only concern with this type of approach is how hamstrung will we get when the first protesters arrive? Can we replicate it or at least identify WHY it is so useful or different?
    • The first problem could provide a solution to the second - I'm sure people who are vehemently opposed to animal testing will be willing to volunteer their bodies, right?
      • by DougWebb (178910) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @12:17PM (#23001514) Homepage

        I'm sure people who are vehemently opposed to animal testing will be willing to volunteer their bodies, right?

        Many would, but if you try to take them up on that, a whole other group of activists gets involved preventing that testing too.

        So, you think "Ok, I just won't test my product then", and a third group of activists pounces on you. There's just no way to get ahead without paying everyone off to make them happy and quiet.

      • by MrNaz (730548) *
        You, sir, just solved my problem with people who protest against oil companies! I'll just hire them to ride me around on raised litters like a medieval king! Hey, I wouldn't be using any oil!
    • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:42AM (#23001022) Homepage Journal

      My only concern with this type of approach is how hamstrung will we get when the first protesters arrive?


      Possibly somewhat, but not as much as if the protesters hadn't been there all along to make sure the species did not become extinct, or too rare to study.

      You're probably too young to remember this, but alligator skin used to be quite stylish for handbags, shoes, wallets and the like. Wild populations can provide a sustainable source of goods like this so long as people don't take so many animals that the equilibrium breaks down and the population crashes. However, that's pretty much the inevitable course of events ever since society reached a sufficient technological level to respond to market opportunities with tools that make resource extraction orders of magnitude faster (and thus more profitable).

      You, as an alligator hunter, may be smart enough to know you'll make more in the long run by sustainable harvesting, but if your competition is sufficiently inbred, this sounds like hifalutin nonsense to them. When the idiots are making more money than the smart people, the near-idiots emulate the idiots, and pretty soon the people acting intelligently are the only ones who aren't in on the bonanza. At that point the intelligent choice is to act stupidly, because you maximize your long term return by grabbing a share of the breeding stock before even that is liquidated.
      • by jtev (133871)
        Yeah, they couldn't possibly use FARMED alligator for this. No, just not possible. I don't think they've been domesticated long enough for the wild and "tame" strains to be that different. Oh, and Aligator leather is making a comeback, because of the farming.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hey! (33014)
          Well, that's a clever argument. It lacks just one thing: any correlation to what actually happened.

          Farming was only economically possible after the population was sufficiently recovered that it was no longer in danger. The reason is that you can't un-ban products made from an endangered species until that species is either out of danger, or there is no credible prospect of stabilizing the wild population and controlling poaching.

          Farming isn't easy. I don't know any alligator farmers, but I do know peopl
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by value_added (719364)
      My only concern with this type of approach is how hamstrung will we get when the first protesters arrive?

      No worries. The biochemists studying this work at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and McNeese State University in Lake Charles, both in Louisiana. If you ever been to that part of the south, you'd know they'd rather eat the things only slightly more than they'd prefer shoot them, or use them to make handbags, belts and shoes.

      Can we replicate it or at least identify WHY it is so useful or di
    • We don't have to kill'em to use their blood. Hell, we've been studying horseshoe crabs' [wikipedia.org] unique immune systems in the same fashion. Note that useful samples of blood can be (repeatedly) extracted from the crabs without killing them. From the Wikipedia article:

      "A single horseshoe crab can be worth $2,500 over its lifetime for periodic blood extractions..."

      If alligator blood is important enough then we could occasionally draw from specimens which are already in captivity.

      And for those of you who are mak
      • by Mordac (1009) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @01:06PM (#23002208)

        And for those of you who are making all of the croc meat jokes, keep in mind that croc meat is tough, stringy, and lacking in flavor compared to other meats.
        Alligator meat from Louisana is darn good eats.

        Their legs can be treated like Buffalo Wings, very tasty.

        The tail is the most popular part, as thats used much like chicken tenders. Most people enjoy fried gator tail. You can go back further up on its back, for the tenderloin, but not as good.

        Last part I've tried is the ribs. Very similar to baby back ribs, its a white meat, no question about it when eating the ribs. Yes, the amount of meat to bone isn't all that good, but its good enough to enjoy a slow smoking.

        Alligator really is the other other white meat, and one of my favourites.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Gator meat isn't shot full of hormones and other shit. Problem is catching the damn things ;)
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by mattsucks (541950)
            Gator meat isn't shot full of hormones and other shit. Problem is catching the damn things ;)

            I can imagine two gators (on gator-dot?) having the same discussion about _us_.
    • Their immune system kills HIV because it kills everything... viruses, bacteria, normal cells, ... spare tires.

      If it wasn't for their wolverine-esque regenerative powers their blood would instantly dissolve their own selves, like so much molecular acid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by krayzkrok (889340)
      The goal is to sequence the peptides involved, ultimately to synthesize them. It's not going to affect wild alligator populations, not that there's a dearth of them! Adam
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:23AM (#23000750) Journal
    It's amazing what can be discovered when you're looking for something else. I have an excerpt from the researcher's journal that I found on their site:

    "Johnson was busy cutting lines and snorting dolphin brains while playing Brain Age to see if that was increasing his mental capabilities. Heinz was freebasing hawk feathers and taking eye exams to check for increased vision. Me? I was mainlining alligator blood and hoping for some sort of super jaw strength and scales. As we were taking Williams to the hospital (he had grafted a mongoose tail to his ass and entered a pit of asps and vipers) I noticed that all my ulcers and sinuses had cleared up within the hour ..."
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Hey if a radioactive spider can turn a geeky kid into Spiderman, anything is possible.
  • What's the cost? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:23AM (#23000754)
    The ability to heal quickly and fight off almost any infection would be a huge adaptation for any animal even without the territory battles. The fact that alligators are one of the few (only?) animals to evolve this adaptation indicates that it comes with a hefty price.

    The question is, can we leverage this adaptation for ourselves without incurring the price? If the price is energy expended to produce the ultra efficient immune system, that's fine; but if the price is directly tied to the effects themselves this may prove worthless.
    • by Ai Olor-Wile (997427) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:30AM (#23000828) Homepage
      The cost is "being a goddamn ten foot long reptile." The cure is "put it in pills." Sheesh, some transhumanists...
    • by eln (21727) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:34AM (#23000900) Homepage
      It could also be that the changes required to end up with an immune system like that are incredibly complex and may involve steps along the way that are not evolutionarily advantageous in most species, so the necessary sequence of evolutionary steps was not completed in most species. Or, it could just be that by random chance the mutations simply did not occur except in a few species, and did not stick for whatever reason in most cases where it did occur.

      To say that there must be some tradeoff implies that evolution's purpose is to produce the most perfectly adapted organism possible, when in fact evolution has no purpose at all. It is a series of mutations that tend to produce organisms that are well adapted, but certainly not perfectly adapted in most cases, to the particular environment they find themselves in.

      Or, it might turn out that the tradeoff is that you end up growing tough scaly skin that people like to make into boots and handbags, in which case I look forward to giving my wife a Gucci Human-skin bag in the near future.

      • Not the only species (Score:3, Informative)

        by PCM2 (4486)

        It could also be that the changes required to end up with an immune system like that are incredibly complex and may involve steps along the way that are not evolutionarily advantageous in most species, so the necessary sequence of evolutionary steps was not completed in most species.

        The alligator does not seem to be entirely unique in this.

        In my Emerging Infectious Diseases class, we learned that the tiny ticks that spread the Lyme disease bacterium are known to bite and feed on the blood of the western

    • by wattrlz (1162603)
      Perhaps mammals haven't evolved this, not because of it's cost, but because our immune systems function very differently than that of a crocodilian ? To develop this particular adaptation we'd need to completely re-evaluate our immune strategy. There just isn't enough evolutionary pressure to make us abandon a system that works as well as our current one does. Maybe we should research other animals that live in cesspools, eat carrion and offal; and fight daily territory battles... How do rat immune system
      • All very true, evolution does tend to push towards local maximums, not absolute maximums. However, by speculating that alligators have evolved this immune system because of their fierce terrotorial battles, the researchers imply that other reptiles do not share this adaptation, even though their immune systems are presumably quite similar.

        Can you think of any other adaptation that is as advantagous as this one (immunity from virtually all kinds of disease and infection) that isn't shared by a wide variety
        • by wattrlz (1162603)
          TFA also mentioned crocodiles and from what I know about Caymans I think it's pretty likely they have similar adaptations as well. Komodo Dragons and other monitors also have a similar adaptation.

          Some other unique and inexplicably rare adaptations include the pinniped's ability to sleep a hemisphere at a time, the termite's ability to eat wood, and parthenogenesis.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:49AM (#23001138) Journal
      There was very recent research that was quite extensive that showed this cost of complexity in evolution is a myth [sciencedaily.com]. I don't know why you think it has to come at a cost, it just so happens that alligators needed it to live in their conditions and with their temperaments.

      You can sit here all day and question why we don't have some of the obvious advantage traits that any other animal has and the answer is simple: we didn't require it. If humans needed it and didn't have it, we wouldn't be around.

      Explain your logic on why this must come at a price? The random evolution happened in alligators and may be present in other animals (or extinct relatives).
      • I'm not saying that the complexity of the immune system implies a cost to the organism, I am saying that this adaptation is so ridiculously advantagious that there must be some cost or it would be much more common (Of course, this conjecture falls apart if the adaptation is more common than the article implies).

        Don't believe that this adaptation is that advantagious? Infections deseases are responsible for 20% of human deaths, second only to heart disease; and that is even with modern antibiotics.
        • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @12:12PM (#23001458) Journal

          I'm not saying that the complexity of the immune system implies a cost to the organism, I am saying that this adaptation is so ridiculously advantagious that there must be some cost or it would be much more common (Of course, this conjecture falls apart if the adaptation is more common than the article implies).
          And yet, here you and I are with opposable thumbs and an increased Broca's Region of our brain ... why don't other animals have these ridiculously obvious advantages? Evolution is random and only reacts to the environment of the organism.

          Don't believe that this adaptation is that advantagious? Infections deseases are responsible for 20% of human deaths, second only to heart disease; and that is even with modern antibiotics.
          A death rate of 20% is inflated because we know how to circumvent so many other forms of death. I'm sure prior to civilized humans, we were killed by many many other things. Not to mention that low death rates can lead to famine and ecosystem failure. How do you know we're not dooming the earth by ensuring everyone lives to age 70 and has 2.4 children? The human population is not kept in check the same way it used to be because of modern antibiotics.
          • Maybe the kid born with the super-human immune system was ugly as sin and all the girls ignored him when it was time to make babies. The good looking guy was able to father dozens of children and keeled over at a young age due to an infected hang-nail.

            You'd think a site full of supposed nerds would understand the concept instinctively.
      • The random evolution happened in alligators and may be present in other animals (or extinct relatives).

        Evolution is not random. Mutation is but evolution isn't.

        Don't fall into the ID trap

      • What's funny is that the whole concept of advantageous traits is a shifting thing. I listened to some NPR reporters asking why native trees from New York had big thorns on them. It turns out they're very similar to thorns on some trees in Africa, which evolved to minimize predation by elephants. Well, it turns out these trees from New York evolved these spikes to fend of mammoths, though it seems like a silly waste of energy now.

        The trees that didn't have the spikes were all eaten. The alligators who
      • I'll try explaining why it may come at a price.

        Consider two bacteria. One has the minimal DNA needed to survive, while the other carries a huge extra section giving it the ability to digest aspartame, vinyl, and old magazines.
        They are living in a nice sugar solution, so they can divide and replicate as fast as they want to.
        The bacterium with the shorter DNA replicates faster. It outcompetes the bacterium with the extra DNA, and in 50 generations it represents 99.999% of the population.
        When the environment
    • The fact that alligators are one of the few (only?) animals to evolve this adaptation indicates that it comes with a hefty price.

      There is no such indication. There may be a cost, but that's not indicated by the evidence. It may just be that most/all other animals didn't have the specific circumstances that would start a chain of mutations leading to this. It could simply be that alligators are far more likely to get injured, and therefore when this mutation occurred, it much more likely to survive than it

    • by trybywrench (584843) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:50AM (#23001148)

      The fact that alligators are one of the few (only?) animals to evolve this adaptation indicates that it comes with a hefty price. The question is, can we leverage this adaptation for ourselves without incurring the price?
      yeah i don't even want to think about the copay
    • by kencurry (471519)
      the cost is being a damn fine belt or wallet.
  • Gator-aid? (Score:5, Funny)

    by thatseattleguy (897282) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:24AM (#23000766) Homepage
    Good for what ails ya.

    'nuff said.
  • Nice to see another animal joining the tiger, rhino and elephant in helping mankind survive and prosper.

    Still, I'm sure as a sensible and mature species we can do the right thing and coexist happy with our newfound antibiotic donors. It would be ironic if after they finally disappear from the wild (and they are one of those species that has been around for many many millions of years) they survive only in medicine farms.

    sigh.
    • Re:zzz (Score:5, Interesting)

      by berashith (222128) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:57AM (#23001240)
      check out the horseshoe crab. They were going to be completely destroyed until the medical industry offered to pay more for keeping them alive than the fishermen were paying to use them as bait. The species will actually continue only because of their medical uses. Maybe this will help.

      There are already decent protections for legal hunting gator, and this may increase the pressure against poaching.
  • Why evolution? (Score:2, Informative)

    by AutopsyReport (856852)
    Scientists believe that this is an evolutionary adaptation to promote quick wound healing, as alligators are often injured during fierce territorial battles.

    Or conversely, alligators as a species have always had these antibiotics. Why is it that every interesting or perplexing feature about a species must be somehow attributed to, or be a product of, evolution?

    I'm as much a believer in evolution as the next, but I've grown a bit tired of every amazing discovery being associated with evolution.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by securitytech (1267760)
      If you "believe" in evolution, how could any trait NOT be a product of it?
    • Ummm, What? If you are "as much a believer in evolution as the next" how do you propose that "alligators as a species have always had these antibiotics". If you beleive in evolution, then alligators as a species haven't always existed. In fact, according to evolution they probably have a common ancestor with nearly every other animal on the planet.

      The article isn't saying that they just recently evolved this immune system if that's what you are trying to say. Mearly that we have discovered this new adap
    • alligators as a species have always had these antibiotics

      Okay, then their most recent ancestors evolved it.

      Either you think that all species got their present form due to natural selection, or you don't. You can't say "Weeeelllll, sure, some did, but this particular species probably just sprang up fully-formed out of the ether."

      Well, okay, you can say that, but don't expect scientists to agree.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm as much a believer in evolution as the next, but I've grown a bit tired of every amazing discovery being associated with evolution.

      I believe the real root of your concern, which I share to some degree, is that oftentimes people will be quick to graft on an explanation based on evolutionary theory to any peculiar feature of an organism, without any testing. Thus, one could conceivably concoct several different interpretations based on evolutionary theory of the origins of any feature of an organism.

      However, and this is the key point, just because one can come up with an arbitrary interpretation, does not mean that an explanation groun

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by hoggoth (414195)
      > Or conversely, alligators as a species have always had these antibiotics. Why is it that every interesting or perplexing feature about a species must be somehow attributed to, or be a product of, evolution?
      > I'm as much a believer in evolution as the next, but I've grown a bit tired of every amazing discovery being associated with evolution.

      Because every interesting, perlexing, or boring feature of a species is of course a product of evolution.
      The first single cell didn't have a powerful immune syst
    • Probably because everything that exists today was influenced by everything that took place in the past. Some traits are probably just random mutations that neither increased nor decreased the chances for survival - human handedness, hair/eye color, ear shape... these have few impacts on survival save some extreme conditions. Until science can come up with a good reason why most of us are right handed, I doubt one could really call it evolution, rather random mutation.

      An advanced immune system or rapid regen
      • Probably because everything that exists today was influenced by everything that took place in the past. Some traits are probably just random mutations that neither increased nor decreased the chances for survival - human handedness, hair/eye color, ear shape... these have few impacts on survival save some extreme conditions. Until science can come up with a good reason why most of us are right handed, I doubt one could really call it evolution, rather random mutation.

        No, its still evolution. Even if we don't know the utility of something, that is no reason to believe that its not the product of evolution. For example, quite recently we discovered the reason why we have an appendix (other than to make my life as an ER doctor a living hell.) However 5 years ago, if you asked any evolutionary biologist they would have still said that the appendix is a product of evolution. It would be like suggesting that gravity wasn't really there until Newton described it.

        Of course

    • by hey! (33014)

      I'm as much a believer in evolution as the next, but I've grown a bit tired of every amazing discovery being associated with evolution.

      It's not so much a matter of belief but utility. This is how you use a scientific theory like evolution.

      Evolution is such an important biological concept, that every well designed study which either relates to breeding populations of organisms or to traits which might promote the survival of individuals within such a population sets out to disprove natural selection. It's

    • Some clarification: I wasn't trying to suggest that the characteristics of an alligator are not a result of evolution, because of course, as some have pointed out, everything is rooted in evolution.

      What I was trying to say is that it's possible that the alligator had always had these antibiotics since it's initial state of being, and that it didn't obtain these antibiotics somewhere along its course of life.

      To repeat: everything about alligators is a product of evolution, but it's entirely plausible t
  • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:32AM (#23000864)
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4155522.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    About three and a half years ago he tested alligator blood and pinpointed why these animals were so resistant to infection. Alligators and crocodiles, like humans, have a natural defence system against invading bacteria, viruses and fungi, which involves a group of proteins called the complement system. When Dr Merchant exposed the alligator blood to pathogens such as HIV, West Nile Virus and E Coli, it started to kill them. "It turns out that this complement system is much more effective than ours.
    and that was already 3 years old.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    just not so good for your health to try to collect it
  • by GargamelSpaceman (992546) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:35AM (#23000930) Homepage Journal

    Gators/Crocs are famous for having not changed much since the time of the dinosaurs.


    I wonder if since they have a very strong immune system that kills viruses etc so well, if they have not denied themselves the opportunity to incorporate useful viral dna and bacterial plasmids into their own dna. It would be interesting to see if they have a different amount of viral origin genes in their genomes than other animals.

    • by MetricT (128876) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @12:48PM (#23001938) Homepage
      I can't help but wonder if they haven't changed since the age of the dinosaurs *because* of their strong immune system. Viruses cause a lot of DNA mutations for natural selection to work with. If your immune system is efficient at killing viruses, that cuts off an entire avenue for helpful mutations to enter the genome. Their source of mutations has been reduced to cosmic rays. Overgeneralized, but I hope you get the idea.

      Maybe we should start looking at other dinosaur-era lifeforms and seeing what's in their immune system.
  • ... hanging around... The kid's got alligator blood!
  • Ok, who thinks the Biochemists from McNeese State University have been watching a wee bit too many Sci Fi Pictures original films?

    "next tonight... MANGATOR!"

    [badum-ching]
  • by lpangelrob (714473) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:39AM (#23000996)
    Alligator blood? Man, that's cold.
  • How long will these alligators survive, now that their blood became worthy?
    • by gnuman99 (746007)
      HAHAHA!!

      Oh man, you've made my day. I thought I saw dumb replies but this got to top the rest of the ignorance. What do you think they researchers will do?? Grab them all and drain them of blood??

      Here's what will happen,

      1. they go to a zoo or similar controller place and get some blood samples. Or grab a few specimens for their own little "zoo"
      2. work on the blood samples for weeks/months
      3. go back to step #1 for as long as necessary for #4 to be available
      4. get some result

      This i
  • by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:50AM (#23001154)
    Just to point out, McNeese State University, where the study was done, is in Lake Charles, LA. That's in South Louisiana. Which is mostly swampland, or close to it.

    Those kids KNOWS gators. Which are tasty, by the way, and becoming a borderline nuisance down in South LA because the @#$%ing damnyankee tourists keep feedin' em and dey come up to de pirogue lookin' for de crap-touristee food and you gotta whack 'em wit' de paddle and dey bite de paddle and you got...woah, sorry.

    All that goes to say....Gator sausage is GOOD eatin'.
  • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @11:54AM (#23001200)
    Old family recipe:
    • 2 oz. fresh gator blood
    • 2 oz. rum 151 proof or stronger
    • splash hot pepper sauce
    • serve straight up with or without raw egg
    Cures what ails you.
    • "Splash hot pepper sauce."

      Pfff. Lightweight.

      And let me NARROW that down for you. Tobasco, Krystal, or Louisiana Hot Sauce. Or choose your local south LA brand or whatever you made up yourself.
  • alligators also:

    1. eat putrid rotten food
    2. live in oxygen deprived standing water
    3. have been doing so for hundreds of millions of years

    therefore, their immune systems should be absolutely spectacular

    however, some of their adaptations might be more systematic. that is, rather than fight off infecting agents, they may simply let infectious agents traverse their organ systems with impunity, without any resistance, and also without offering any safe harbor. in other words, it is one thing to have a fanatical
  • Something tells me we'll have to put them back on the endangered species list. We just recently took them off of it.
    • Ummmm....no. You may be thinking crocodiles. Alligators are actually becoming a nuisance, and you can legally hunt them with a tag (something like one a year, depending). They are ALL OVER THE FREAKING PLACE sometimes, because of lack of - or limitation of predators and the tourists keep feedin' em.
  • Komodo dragons too (Score:2, Informative)

    by cats-paw (34890)
    Turns out Komodo dragons have a fairly lethal cocktail of bacteria in their saliva.
    Kills prey that manages to escape their immediate grasp, then they use smell to track it down.
    Naturally they need protection from this goo too.

    Couldn't find a better link than this:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12238371/ [nih.gov]

  • I'm glad to see this. You get them for the opposite reason as a diabetic leg ulcer (instead of poor supply in - you have poor flow out). These things can take YEARS to heal (I'm going on a year)

    I managed to catch an antibiotic resistant strain of something. Taking dyvox right now - Not fun at all, but it seems to have cleared the infection - I'll be done with this course on Friday night. Can't wait (there are a number of side effects, and a HUGE number of eating restrictions)
  • So in this rare circumstance, the weird ritual of drinking your enemies' blood to "gain their strength" may actually do something? That is too weird to be made up!
  • by Michael_Burton (608237) <michaelburton@brainrow.com> on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @03:38PM (#23004286) Homepage

    Those fools!

    It's true Dr. Connors' work has not yet been featured in a Spider-Man movie, but that's no excuse for scientists not being familiar with the literature regarding this kind of research.

  • Finally... (Score:4, Funny)

    by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:37AM (#23010368)
    ...It looks like my ex will be good for something positive.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. -- John Muir

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