Embargoed for release: Thursday, August 26, 10:50 a.m., Eastern Time
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Kissing a frog won’t turn it into a prince — except in fairy tales — but frogs may be hopping toward a real-world transformation into princely allies in humanity’s battle with antibiotic-resistant infections that threaten millions of people worldwide. Scientists today reported that frog skin contains natural substances that could be the basis for a powerful new genre of antibiotics. In a report at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, the team of stalwart frog-fanciers described enlisting colleagues worldwide to ship secretions from hundreds of promising frog skins to their laboratory in the United Arab Emirates. Using that amphibious treasure trove, they identified more than 100 antibiotic substances in the skins of different frog species from around the world. One even fights “Iraqibacter,” the bacterium responsible for drug-resistant infections in wounded soldiers returning from Iraq.
Michael Conlon, Ph.D., who reported on the research, noted that the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, which have the ability to shrug off conventional antibiotics, is a growing problem worldwide. As a result, patients need new types of antibiotics to replace drugs that no longer work. The scientists are currently screening skin secretions from more than 6,000 species of frogs for antibiotic activity. So far, they have purified and determined the chemical structure of barely 200, leaving a potential bonanza of antibiotic substances awaiting discovery.
One substance isolated from the skin secretions of the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog — a species once common in California and Oregon but now facing extinction — shows promise for killing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. MRSA is a “superbug,” infamous for causing deadly outbreaks of infection among hospitalized patients. Now it is occurring in settings outside hospitals, including schools, nursing homes, and day care centers. The skin of the mink frog, likewise, contains secretions that show promise for fighting “Iraqibacter,” caused by multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumanni.