In the midst of an era where the scare of antibiotic resistance has reached a point of critical mass, researchers are rushing to find a viable solution to this problem.

Fortunately, a team of researchers from the George Mason University in the US may have found a possible solution to this issue. Utilising a new strain of antibiotics derived from komodo dragon-inspired synthetic peptides may yet offer a bright future to this grim antibiotic crisis.

Saliva inhabits a cocktail of bacterial strains

Native to the islands of Indonesia, the komodo dragons are the largest living species of lizards in the world. Believed to have originated from the island of Komodo, these lizards are distinctively recognizable – because of their large size, flat heads, bowed legs and long, thick tails, which have served as the basis for many rumours and folk tales.

More impressively, komodo dragons are known to have more than 80 different bacterial strains within their saliva. The dangerous cocktail of bacterial strains is known to cause severe bacterial sepsis and poisoning.

According to team of researchers led by Monique van Hoek, the reptile rarely becomes ill, despite consuming decaying flesh and possessing saliva that is rich in harmful bacteria.

The komodo dragons remain completely unaffected by their saliva, which can be best explained by an underlying immunity. This immunity likely arises from an antimicrobial factor within the reptile’s blood.

Miraculous dragon blood

First published on 11 April 2017, the research paper aimed to bring the wonders of the reptile’s blood to light. The synthetic peptide, DRGN-1, was tested on mice and showed potent antimicrobial and anti-biofilm activity even against superbugs such as pseudomonas aeruginosa and staphylococcus aureus.

"The synthesized peptide DRGN-1 is not a Komodo dragon's natural peptide; it's been altered to be stronger in terms of both potency and stability," explained van Hoek.

The aforementioned two bacteria are especially known for being resistant towards antibiotic treatment. Nevertheless, application of the DRGN-1 peptide showed improved clearing and healing of infected wounds.

Moreover, DRGN-1 treated wounds healed significantly faster compared to untreated wounds. This success of the DRGN-1 peptide was indicative of its ability to improve cell adhesion and healing while fending off microbial infection.

Future Implications

Like killing two birds with one stone, the implication of DRGN-1 is far reaching with a simple application proving to be effective in both infected and sterile wounds. In terms of short-term benefits, DRGN-1 has paved its way to be a viable topical wound treatment for all types of wounds. Meanwhile, its long-term benefits include opening up a new pathway for antimicrobials and wound treatment.

The creation and discovery of the peptide DRGN-1 does not offer an immediate solution to the antibiotic resistance crisis. In fact, more research is required before the benefits of this peptide can extend its usage to more than just topical application.

Nevertheless, it does offer hope for new avenues on tackling the antibiotic crisis. It also demonstrates additional benefits, such as quickened wound healing, that prove the viability of this novel peptide.

With sufficient research and development, DRGN-1 has the potential to be expanded upon two fronts while benefitting the medical landscape as a whole. With this discovery, perhaps it is time that closer attention is paid to the marvels that Mother Nature has to offer. MIMS

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