Last updated January 23, 2018 at 2:05 pm
Komodo dragons are one of my favourite animals and with this new discovery, they just got a whole lot more fascinating.
Researchers have now analysed their blood and found protein fragments known as cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs). They believe this helps protect the Komodo dragon against deadly infections from the bacteria in their saliva.
The researchers, who published their results in the Journal of Proteome Research, hope that Komodo dragon blood holds the potential for new antimicrobial therapeutics.
I’m sure my fascination with Komodo dragons has nothing to do with their prehistoric likeness to dinosaurs (okay, it’s probably a lot to do with that). But there are other reasons. Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizard, they’ve been around forever i.e. Australian fossils from ~4 million years ago are identical to modern dragons, they’re from the same age that megafauna still existed, they’re tough as heck and they have a killer venomous bite! Although their nasty saliva contains at least 57 species of bacteria, it’s a myth that these microbes are capable of fatal infections.
So if you’re not impressed yet, then keep scrolling and watch this footage of their strength.
A truly iconic scene, it’s my first memory of being in awe of such an incredible animal. The above clip from the David Attenborough documentary BBC Life shows the Komodo dragons fighting.
The wounds from their opponents would be enough to kill any lesser being and yet they survive. So it makes sense that there must be something in their blood that protects them.
From this recent discovery, researchers isolated CAMPs from the Komodo dragon blood using a method called bioprospecting. Better than digging for gold, they were using mass spectrometry to find something even more interesting. They were able to synthesise eight CAMPs in the lab and test them against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, both of which are multi-drug resistant bacteria that cause serious diseases. Out of these, seven CAMPs were effectively in fighting against both bacteria whilst an eight was effective against P. aeruginosa.
Blood of dragons. There’s something in it after all!
- Link to original research article: pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.jproteome.6b00857