Frog Skin Chemicals Offer Source of New Antibiotics
Scientists say frog skin could become a source of needed antibiotics that can fight viruses, fungus and most importantly, antibiotic resistant infections known as superbugs. One species of frog used in a new study was powerful enough to fight “Iraqibacter”, a dangerous infection that affects wounded soldiers and is highly resistant to current antibiotic treatment.
Researchers have identified more than 100 substances in the skin of frogs from around the world that could potentially solve the problem of antibiotic resistance, replacing drugs that fail to eradicate bacteria because they have become immune to current antibiotic treatment.
Antibiotic Agents from Frog Skin
"Frog skin is an excellent potential source of such antibiotic agents," said Conlon, a biochemist at the United Arab Emirates University in Al-Ain, Abu Dhabi Emirate. "They've been around 300 million years, so they've had plenty of time to learn how to defend themselves against disease-causing microbes in the environment. Their own environment includes polluted waterways where strong defenses against pathogens are a must."
One bacterium, Acinobacter baumanni, might be eradicated by chemicals found in the skin of mink frog. Scientists found chemicals in the skin of the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog that could be developed to fight MRSA, the superbug that has found its way into the community but was once associated with hospital acquired infection.
Scientists have known that frog skin has chemicals that fight infection, but until now they have not find a way to make the substances so they’re not toxic to humans. Scientists from the American Chemical Society are tweaking the molecular structure of the frog compounds to turn them into powerful infection fighters that last in the blood stream, are non toxic and make it hard for bacteria to develop resistance.
One of the frogs mentioned – the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog is facing extinction. The scientists note the importance of maintaining environmental biodiversity. Conlon is taking great care in his experiments with frog skin chemicals. "We only actually use the frogs to get the chemical structure of the antibiotic, and then we make it in the lab. We take great care not to harm these delicate creatures, and scientists return them to the wild after swabbing their skin for the precious secretions." He adds, "Some frog species — including those that may contain potentially valuable medicinal substances — are in jeopardy worldwide due to loss of habitat, water pollution, and other problems."
Conlon foresees pharmaceutical companies developing clinical trials from the frog skin chemicals that could be made into new antibiotic creams, lotions and injections. Some of the substances could be trialed within the next five years. Of the 6000 frog species available for screening, only 200 of the chemical structures have been identified and purified for antibiotic development. The potential for discovering more chemicals from frog skin that could solve the problem of antibiotic resistance is wide open.