New Weird Source of Antimicrobial Drugs: Cockroach Brains?

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As I wrote recently, many of our most useful medications come from bizarre sources, ranging from mold from Adriatic castles to Gila monster spit and horse urine. Soon, cockroach brains may be added to this profoundly unappetizing list.

ScienceNews reports that researchers at the University of Nottingham used an extract of pulverized cockroach and locust brain to kill various nasty microbes, including 90% of a strain of E. coli known for causing meningitis (an infection of the brain) and even multidrug resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), sometimes known as a “superbug” because it is so hard to kill with existing antibiotics. (More on Drug-Resistant Superbug Shows Up in Three U.S. States)

ScienceNews writer Rachel Ehrenberg put it this way:

Some of these insects live in the filthiest places ever known to man,” says Naveed Khan, coauthor of the new study. “These insects crawl on dead tissue, in sewage, in drainage areas. We thought, ‘How do they cope with all the bacteria and parasites?’”

Khan and his colleagues became intrigued by insect antimicrobials when they noticed that many soldiers were returning from the Middle East with unusual infections, yet locusts living in the same areas were unperturbed. So the researchers, all from the University of Nottingham, began investigating how the insects ward off disease.

Cockroaches may be disgusting and thrive in squalor, in other words — but that very quality might one day allow cockroach brain–derived drugs to save your life. Just don’t think about where the stuff came from if you ever have to swallow it. (More on Is Drug Use Really on the Rise?)

H/t Science Cheerleader

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