The Plain Truth

The Plain Truth
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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cockroaches: The Antibiotics of the Future?

Cockroaches, the creepy critters reviled for invading kitchens the country over, might be modern medicine's best option for fending off dangerous, drug-resistant bacterial infections.

British researchers at the University of Nottingham's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science are behind the discovery, which entails harnessing molecules from the tissues of cockroaches and locusts to combat bacteria like E. coli and MRSA (drug-resistant staph infections).

A Thai official displays Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
Sakchai Lalit, AP
Chemicals found in the brain and central nervous tissues of cockroaches are able to kill 90 percent of dangerous bacteria in lab-based tests.

The potent chemicals, found in the brain and central nervous tissues of the critters, are able to kill 90 percent of E. coli and MRSA in lab-based tests.

"Superbugs ... have shown the ability to cause untreatable infections and have become a major threat in our fight against bacterial diseases," Dr. Naveed Khan, who supervised the work of lead researcher Simon Lee, said in a press release. "Thus, there is a continuous need to find additional sources of novel anti-microbials to confront this menace."

In a twist that's an ironic upside to our own revulsion for roaches, it's their "unsanitary and unhygienic environments," Lee speculated, that spurred the critters to develop toxins against the bacteria.
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