It may sound like something out of a twisted fairy tale, but certain frogs may become some of man’s best friends thanks to a natural substance found on their skins. A report at the 2010 meeting of the American Chemical Society outlined findings that may result in new antibiotics created from frog skin secretions.
News reports in recent years have warned that some bacteria that can cause very serious infections are become immune to antibiotics. One group of scientists at the United Arab Emirates University in Al-Ain, Abu Dhabi Emirate is looking for new ways to battle these antibiotic-resistant infections. Michael Conlon, Ph.D. is a biochemist with the project which has been studying the secretions from the skins of different frog species to try to develop a new type of antibiotic. The team of researchers recruited fellow scientists around the world to ship hundreds of frog secretion samples to their lab.
Their studies have uncovered over 100 antibiotic substances in the skins of frogs from different species all over the world. They say one frog secretion is even able to fight the “Iraqibacter” which is the bacterium that caused drug-resistant infections in service men and women who had been serving in Iraq. Another substance found in the skin of the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog, which is facing extinction, may be able to kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. MRSA is the antibiotic-resistant bacterium that causes many deadly infections in hospitals and other facilities.
Frog secretions have been studied in the past because they were known to contain antibiotics and other chemicals that can kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Conlon explained this ability in frogs when he said, “Their own environment includes polluted waterways where strong defenses against pathogens are a must.”
The problem with frog secretions in the past has been that the antibiotics they produced were toxic to human cells as well as toxic to bacteria. Conlon’s team developed a method to change the molecular structure of the frog-produced antibiotics in a way that makes them better at killing germs and less harmful to human cells.