Pandas have an antibiotic in their blood

It’s quite possible that sometime in the future you might be taking antibiotics found in panda blood, reports Jennifer Viegas from Discovery News. This sounds pretty peculiar if, like me, you were taught in school that antibiotics come in the form of mould growth (penicillin, anyone?). Considering how many bacteria strains are now resistant to old school antibiotics like penicillin, this is definitely good news.

Panda by George Lu, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  George Lu 

Who would have guessed that something as cutely innocent and harmless as a giant panda was secretly harbouring a bacteria devourer inside it’s fluffy body? Apparently this antibiotic prevented panda’s from becoming infected in the wild.

Here are the impressive stats about this antibiotic: the compound within the blood is called cathelicidin-AM (don’t worry, I won’t test you on it at the end of this post!) and it can annihilate bacteria in an hour which is immense when compared to the bog standard six hours with other popular antibiotics. Research leader Xiuwen Yan found that this compound worked well against many kinds of standard and drug-resistant fungi and bacteria. Great news since pharmacy antibiotics doesn’t always do the job anymore. Let’s hope that if this compound makes it to medicine form, more respect is given to antibiotics so we do not end up with more drug resistant antibiotics.

Sleepy panda at Ocean Park HK

Those who are concerned with what this means for the panda can be reassured that China will not start a panda farm as the researchers at Life Sciences College of Nanjing Agricultural University of China have developed a method to synthesize an artificial version of cathelicidin-AM. In fact, such findings means that there is even more importance placed on preventing extinction of any species as anything might have a cure for human diseases and conditions. In a way, I think it’s a bit sad that some people might only strive to save endangered animals purely for the secrets their bodies might hold for our future. If they had known about this compound years earlier, pandas might not be on the brink of extinction. Fingers crossed that this kind of information will serve only to help the panda’s recover from their low numbers.

Source: Jennifer Viegas. (2013). Potent Antibiotic Found in Giant Panda Blood : Discovery News. Retrieved on the 2nd of January 2013 from

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