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Medicine Science

Panda Blood May Hold Potent Assailant Against Superbugs 149

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-glass-every-morning dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Pandas have long been the face of conservation efforts by environmental activists, but a recent finding may boost even further the need for pandas to evade extinction. Researchers have discovered a powerful antibody in panda blood that could serve as the next frontier in the fight against increasingly prevalent superbugs. The compound is called cathelicin-AM. Discovered when researchers analyzed the creatures' DNA, it has been found to kill fungus and bacteria. It is believed that the antibiotic is released to protect the animal from infections in the wild and, in studies, it has been found to kill both standard and drug-resistant strains of microbes and fungi. The compound also worked extremely quickly, killing off strains of bacteria in just an hour, while conventional antibiotics needed six."
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Panda Blood May Hold Potent Assailant Against Superbugs

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  • Not Antibodies (Score:5, Informative)

    by Joe Torres (939784) on Monday December 31, 2012 @07:14PM (#42437105)

    Cathelicin-AM is an antimicrobial peptide not an antibody.

    I just skimmed the paper (abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22101189 [nih.gov]), but it seems that the group was the first to find out that pandas produce this type of antimicrobial peptide (they are produced by other mammals and it seems that the sequence is similar to that of dogs). The peptide seems to be effective against multiple types of bacteria (Gram positive and Gram negative) and a couple strains of fungi. The researchers only tested the peptide in vitro, so it probably isn't known if purified peptide will be effective in vivo (they reported that it showed little lysis of human red blood cells though).

    TL/DR: Don't pressure your doctor into giving you panda blood when you get sick.

  • Not just Pandas (Score:4, Informative)

    by SurlyJest (1044344) on Monday December 31, 2012 @09:29PM (#42438017)
    This isn't likely to have much effect on the survival of the Panda species - for one, a peptide is probably fairly easy to synthesize or produce in some other living system via genetic engineering if it is worth doing so.

    Most of all, though - this isn't especially new or restricted to Pandas. Peptide cathelicidins are apparently found in every species they've been looked for, including at least some plants. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/mesh/68054804/ [nih.gov] for a summary search on this.

    It remains to be seen if this is a particularly potent member of the general class or just another more or less interesting data point.

  • a few things (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rutulian (171771) on Monday December 31, 2012 @10:30PM (#42438377)

    The summary and medicaldaily article are fairly horrid, so here is the abstract [nih.gov] of the research article. The full article is also available for those who have access.

    Misstatements of the posted summary/article,
    1) Discovery is of a new antibiotic (an antimicrobial peptide), not antibody.
    2) Statement in the article: "They cause much less drug resistance of microbes than conventional antibiotics.", referring to antimicrobial peptides is a ridiculous statement not substantiated by anything.
    3) The "kinetics" of the antimicrobial activity, as published, is not particularly useful for determining efficacy in the clinic. Since the drug they compared against, clindamycin, is completely different in every way from their peptide, it doesn't really say anything at all. They probably screened a number of antibiotics for this "test" and cherry-picked this result to highlight their find.
    4) Use of the term "conventional antibiotic" is misleading. This is a new member of a class of antibiotics (antimicrobial peptides) that are relative newcomers to the field, but is otherwise just another antibiotic. It is not a new mechanism of action, biosynthetic origin, class of molecule, or anything like that. In other words, it is about as conventional as they come, but perhaps useful because we do and will continue to need new antibiotics.

    For anybody who is interested, here is an open access [plosone.org] article on the subject of newly discovered mammalian antimicrobial peptides as potential new antibiotics.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @11:11PM (#42438575)

    Humanity (collectively) has consistently proven itself to be incapable of long-range action (planning and forethought), even the rumor that fresh panda-blood will cure *anything* will be the nail in the coffin for these bamboo eating cuddly freaks.

    Humans have driven quite a few species to extinction, but with regards to Pandas? They would have been extinct already had it not been for us. There are two wildly successful evolutionary traits that a species can have: it can be tasty to humans (cattle, chicken, pork are not going excting anytime soon. That may suck for the individual, but the species survival is guaranteed), or it can be cute to humans (dogs and cats aren't going to go extinct anytime soon). Pandas fall into the second category.

    That creature's sole diet consists of a bamboo that grows in a very limited area, so they can't expand their habitat. The bamboo is very low in nutrients, so they need to eat constantly. The female's window of reproduction lasts only two days a year. Assuming they find a partner in that small window, male pandas often can't succeed in copulating. They don't instinctively know how to mate, and early captivity pandas who never saw mating in the wild, would try to hump females ears and feet. They actually show videos of mating pandas to pandas in captivity to help them out with that. Also to try to get them in the mood. They have an extremely low interest in sex. So, we feed viagra to those captive pandas (I shit you not). Also, their penis size is disproportionally small, which results in difficulties with insertion (yes, that small. It's 1/4 of an inch).

    Assuming a successful pregnancy and birth, it turns out the female only has enough milk for one cub, because unlike other bears, they do not have fat stores that can be converted into large quantities of milk. So the female will choose one of the cubs, and allow any others to die. In captivity, if multiple cubs are born, the cubs are fed some cow milk to supplement their diet, and they switch off the cub with the mother periodically, so the mother thinks she's only taking care of one. The cubs are born toothless and blind, and in the wild the mother leaves the cub alone, defenseless, for 3 to 4 hours every day so she can go feed.

    It is amazing that the species survived this long. The most fascinating thing about this article is that pandas actually have something which is evolutionarily advantageous. And you don't need to worry, they're not going anywhere. Now they're not just cute, they're also useful. We'll continue helping this weird creature breed as a result. Now at least I think there's a good reason to do so. My previous stance was that anything this ill-fitted to survive really shouldn't. Extinction of species is perfectly natural. The only thing we need to be careful of is to not cause those extinctions ourselves. We've essentially gotten powerful and numerous enough to do some serious damage, so we need to watch our hunting numbers, or the destruction of entire habitats. Pandas are one example that is simply not our fault, though.

  • Re:Gypsy Tears (Score:5, Informative)

    by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @12:00AM (#42438769)

    I don't think they are suggesting the actual harvesting of Panda blood.

    Seriously. Jesus Fucking Christ. You could put a male and female Panda in there with a bottle of Wine, Viagra, and an ounce of the finest weed, and they still won't fuck . It's a well known fact that the species is on the verge of extinction simply because they don't have a tremendous urge to procreate.

    Any serious interest in this will be synthesized, and if it's required to be grown in an animal, we will probably use modified rabbits. If you look away for two seconds with those bastards, they already multiplied in the cage.

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