Researchers from George Mason University in Washington DC have created a synthetic molecule from Komodo Dragon blood that, from early results, has shown to be a powerful antibiotic.
Komodo Dragons are an endangered species of monitor lizard found on five Indonesian islands. Known for their large size and venomous bite, they have over 80 strains of bacteria in their mouths, some of which cause severe blood poison in bite humans and animals, although not the dragon itself. They are also known for their ability to survive severe wounds, including lost limbs, without getting infected, despite the filthy environments they live in.
Given that finding new drugs is ‘critical’ to counteract increasing rates of drug resistance, researchers are investigating the mechanisms behind the Komodo’s Dragon’s stunning immunity.
In the present study, the researchers created a drug called DRGN-6 by combining two genes found in Komodo Dragon blood. Preclinical tests found it was able to kill carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, a highly drug-resistant bacteria known to cause an aggressive form of pneumonia that kills up to 600 people in the US per year. Further tests also showed that DRGN-6 is safe to use in waxworms.
These results follow findings from a 2017 paper stating that another synthetic molecule from Komodo Dragon blood, known as DRGN-1, is able to promote healing of wounds infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus (also known as MRSA) in mice.
While promising findings, the researchers behind the drugs say that it could take around a decade before they reach the market. This comes as they first need to be tweaked via a process known as rational design to ensure they cause no damage to red blood cells. Following this, they will need to be shown as effective in both animal studies and human trials.