The panda, also known as the giant panda, is easily recognized by the distinctive black patches of fur around its eyes, ears, and across its otherwise white corpulent bear-like body. The panda’s diet is 99 percent bamboo. In the wild, they will eat other grasses, wild tubers, or even bird and rodent carrion. In captivity, they receive a specially prepared diet of honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, and bananas.
The giant panda is indigenous to mountain ranges in central China in the Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. As a result of farming, deforestation, and other development, the panda has been driven out. The last census counted nearly 1,600 wild pandas left and a little over 300 in captivity. The panda is a conservation-reliant endangered species, meaning they require continued species specific intervention intended to monitor predator control, habitat, and reproduction.
The Daily Mail reports that, while analyzing the animal’s DNA, researchers discovered a powerful antibody, cathelicin-AM, in panda blood that could serve in the fight against increasingly prevalent, resistant superbugs. It can be more effective than antibiotics, killing some fungi and bacteria in less than an hour. It could be used as an antiseptic.
Newser quotes one of the lead researchers of the substance:
“It shows potential antimicrobial activities against a wide spectrum of microorganisms including bacteria and fungi, both standard and drug-resistant strains.”
Before you scream for your nearest activist, scientists will not need to rely on the animal’s unpredictable breeding to harvest the new antibiotic. It can be replicated artificially in a lab once the genes have been decoded to produce and isolate peptides.
Peptides are complex biomolecules that have unique chemical and physical properties that are a direct result of their amino acid composition. Peptides alone are often too small to elicit an immune response sufficient to generate antibodies. Therefore, the peptide of interest is conjugated to carrier proteins containing many epitopes. An epitope is a localized region on the surface of an antigen capable of eliciting an immune response and of combining with a specific antibody to counter that response.
Without going too much further into the scientific explanation on how they generate synthetic antibodies, just trust that the panda itself will not be harmed in the process. Concern is understandable, given that animals have been poached nearly to extinction because of their so-called medicinal uses.