News Stories

Frog Medicine

Frogs are often overlooked, but they can be valuable for many reasons. Our scientists are fighting a battle with antibiotic-resistant infections that threaten millions of people worldwide, but frogs may save us (if they don't go extinct!) Scientists have learned that frog skin contains natural substances that could be the basis for a powerful new genre of antibiotics.

The emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, which have the ability to shrug off conventional antibiotics, is a growing problem worldwide. A group of researchers have asked their colleagues who study amphibians worldwide to ship secretions from hundreds of promising frog skins to their. Using that amphibious treasure trove, they have identified more than 100 antibiotic substances in the skins of different frog species from around the world. One even fights "Iraqibacter," the bacterium responsible for drug-resistant infections in wounded soldiers returning from Iraq.

Researcher Michael Conlon says, "Frog skin is an excellent potential source of such antibiotic agents. They've been around 300 million years, so they've had plenty of time to learn how to defend themselves against disease-causing microbes in the environment. Their own environment includes polluted waterways where strong defenses against pathogens are a must."

Frogs even dose THEMSELVES with antibiotics: They normally eat insects but when they shed their skin, which they do on a regular basis, they eat it. And toads have a great method of birth control: When grabbed by a male they don't want to have sex with, female cane toads inflate their bodies so he can't hold on. In LiveScience.com, Adam Hadhazy quotes researcher Bas Bruning as saying, "Our study shows that females can exert mate choice by inflating their bodies."

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Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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