BEIJING, Aug. 18 -- Scientists in Australia¡¯s tropical north are collecting
blood from crocodiles in the hope of developing a powerful antibiotic for
humans, after tests showed that the reptile¡¯s immune system kills the HIV virus.
The crocodile¡¯s immune system is much more powerful than that of humans,
preventing life-threatening infections after savage territorial fights that
often leave the animals with gaping wounds and missing limbs.
¡°They tear limbs off each other and despite the fact that they live in this
environment with all these microbes, they heal up very rapidly and normally
almost always without infection,¡± said U.S. scientist Mark Merchant, who has
been taking crocodile blood samples in the Northern Territory.
Initial studies of the crocodile immune system in 1998 found that several
proteins (antibodies) in the reptile¡¯s blood killed bacteria that were resistant
to penicillin, such as Staphylococcus aurous or golden staph, Australian
scientist Adam Britton said. It was also a more powerful killer of the HIV virus
than the human immune system.
¡°If you take a test tube of HIV and add crocodile serum it will have a
greater effect than human serum. It can kill a much greater number of HIV viral
organisms,¡± Britton said from Darwin¡¯s Crocodylus Park, a tourism park and
Britton said the crocodile immune system worked differently from the human
system by directly attacking bacteria immediately an infection occurred in the
For the past 10 days Britton and Merchant have been carefully collecting
blood from wild and captive crocodiles, both saltwater and freshwater species.
After capturing a crocodile and strapping its powerful jaws closed the
scientists extract blood from a large vein behind the head.
They hope to collect enough crocodile blood to isolate the powerful
antibodies and eventually develop an antibiotic for use by humans.
(Source: Shenzhen Daily/Agencies)