Komodo Dragon’s Blood May Be Key to Antibiotic Resistance

Study shows a molecule helped cure antibiotic resistant infections in mice

Two Komodo dragons. JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP/Getty Images

A new study published in NPJ Biofilms and Microbiomes on April 11 by researchers from George Mason University found that a synthetic compound they created based on a molecule in the blood of Komodo dragons promoted healing of infected wounds in mice.

The compound provides hope of developing new antibiotics as bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics at faster rates than pharmaceutical researchers can develop new ones. In the United States alone, 23,000 people die every year due to infections that are antibiotic resistant. That number is estimated to increase to 317,000 in the United States and 10 million worldwide by 2050. Factors accelerating antibiotic resistance include farmers increasingly depending on antibiotics to combat disease and infection in industrial farming, doctors over prescribing antibiotics, and people failing to complete their entire dosage, enabling bacteria left in their bodies to develop resistance to the antibiotic. Bacteria’s rapidly increasing resistance is inspiring researchers to look for new ways to develop antibiotics.

Komodo dragons are indigenous to five islands in Indonesia and have toxic bacteria in their mouths. They are immune to but can cause sepsis, or blood poisoning. Researchers used to think that the 80 different types of bacteria in their mouths killed their prey, but in 2009 it was discovered that they inject poisonous venom into their prey. The dragons appear to be immune to the bacteria in their mouths, inciting medical researchers to study how the reptile develops this immunity. In February 2017, a study published in the Journal of Proteome Research reported that the researchers at George Mason University found anti-microbial proteins in the blood of Komodo dragons that appear to help them fight life threatening infections and could be used to develop new antibiotics.

“We have identified a histone H1-derived peptide from the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), called VK25. Using this peptide as inspiration, we designed a synthetic peptide called DRGN-1. We evaluated the antimicrobial and anti-biofilm activity of both peptides against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus,” also known as MRSA, noted the researchers in their study. The type of bacteria they tested their compound on is known to be antibiotic resistant due to its bacteria sticking together in biofilms, or colonies. The researchers believe their peptide compound is a good candidate for further studies and could eventually be used as a new antibiotic treatment for infected wounds.

Komodo Dragon’s Blood May Be Key to Antibiotic Resistance