The threat of antibiotic resistance is nothing to scoff at: The World Health Organization predicts (pdf) that some diseases, including malaria, tuberculosis, and pneumonia, could have “no effective therapies within the next 10 years.” Indeed, 70 percent of hospital-acquired bacterial infections in the United States—which kill 90,000 Americans a year—are resistant to at least one drug, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But scientists are working hard to find more potent antibiotics, and they are uncovering them in the strangest of places, from alligators’ veins to cholesterol drugs.
1 Gator Blood
Alligators fight off infections far better than humans do, perhaps due to an adaptation that promotes rapid wound healing. Recent lab tests show that tiny amounts of alligator blood extract—some scientists call it alligacin—kill many microbes, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and help fight HIV.
2 Frog Skin
Last year Italian scientists isolated short proteins called antimicrobial peptides from frog skin and tested them on strains of multidrug-resistant bacteria. The peptides not only killed bacteria directly, but also ramped up the host immune system to help clear infections more quickly.
The peptides are so fragile that they rapidly break down in blood; the researchers nevertheless found one that killed five bacterial species in the presence of blood. Among the affected microorganisms were three that commonly cause deadly hospital-acquired infections, including Staphylococcus aureus and two emerging bacterial pathogens, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia and Acinetobacter baumannii, that are a growing cause of infections in hospital intensive-care units.