Giant panda blood holds potential to provide powerful antibiotic, researchers say


Looking at photos of giant pandas is a great way to chase away the blues, but now researchers have found that something in panda blood could possibly help make you healthier.

According to researchers from Life Sciences College of Nanjing Agricultural University and other organizations in China, giant panda blood contains a peptide (a type of amino acid) that when synthesized “showed potential antimicrobial activities against a wide spectrum of microorganisms,” including bacteria and fungi. A test of the peptide found that it killed Staphylococcus sciuri bacteria in just one hour, compared with the six hours required by clindamycin, an antibiotic. The peptide was found to be effective even against drug-resistant strains, often referred to as “superbugs.”

The researchers’ paper outlining the discovery was published online more than a year ago ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22101189 ) in the journal Gene, but it is just now getting wider media coverage.

Dr. Xiuwen Yan, the paper’s lead author as well as one of the scientists currently analyzing the giant panda’s genome, told the Daily Telegraph that antimicrobial peptides in the blood of living organisms play an important role in the defense against potentially harmful microorganisms. He said that more than 1,000 other antimicrobial peptides have been found in other animals, plants and microorganisms.

The panda peptide, cathelicidin-AM, is generated by the immune cells within the panda’s blood stream. Yan told the Telegraph that the discovery could lead to either a drug that would be effective against superbugs or an antimicrobial surface cleaner.

Only about 1,600 giant pandas remain in the wild, and the species has proven to be incredibly difficult to breed in captivity.