Amphibian antidote

Published: Sunday 15 June 1997

WITH drug-resistant microbes increasing by the day, researchers at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, are looking at frogs for developing powerful antibiotics. Tests have indicated that compounds derived from the poisonous secretion of African tree frogs, African marsh frogs and other amphibians can kill even the most harmful drug-resistant bacteria. Researchers found that when these frogs kill their natural predators, the poisonous compounds do not kill cells other than those of the specific bacterial strains they attack.

"Current antibiotics are mostly derived from fungi and bacteria. But these new compounds are made not by simple organisms, but by vertebrates like ourselves and they do not seem to have many harmful side-effects. They can hit their targets very accurately," says Chris Shaw, director of the drug discovery unit at QLfeen's University. Another source of pow Ierful antibiotics could be starfish. Scientists are studying how starfish regrow severed arms without getting infected. Researchers from Appalachian State University in North Carolina, us, have identified 10 new infection-fighting bacterial species in the starfish known as brittle star.

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