The new research has identified
a peptide found from the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis
), called VK25, which appears to be useful as a cationic antimicrobial peptide (CAMP). There is currently considerable interest in antimicrobial peptides in a world where antibiotic effectiveness is in decline. These peptides are potent, broad spectrum antibiotics which demonstrate potential as novel therapeutic agents.
Using this peptide as inspiration, scientists have designed a synthetic peptide, which, referencing the common name for the Komodo they have dubbed DRGN-1. This peptide contains two amino acids taken from the original protein sequence of the dragon's VK25. The reason why researchers were studying the Komodo was to understand why saliva of these giant Indonesian lizards contains a host of bacteria yet the reptiles themselves do not become infected (which suggests an antimicrobial compound).
Video - Komodo dragons hunt a buffalo:
In trials the researchers (from George Mason University, Manassas, Virginia) have evaluated the antimicrobial and anti-biofilm activity of both peptides against a range of bacteria. A biofilm is a special community of bacteria
that resemble a slime. Here the bacteria undergo physiological changes which makes them harder to kill, positing a risk in terms of wounds and with the process of healing wounds. The researchers, as Pharmaceutical Microbiology reports
, undertook trial against two infectious bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa
and Staphylococcus aureus
(which, when some strains are resistant to certain drugs, becomes MRSA) .
The study results revealed that the synthetic DRGN-1 (rather than the 'natural' VK25) exhibited a potent antimicrobial and anti-biofilm activity. The protein broke through the bacterial membranes, bound to DNA, and killed the microbes, according to lead researcher Dr. van Hoek in an interview with the American Society for Microbiology
The evaluation test was a scratch wound closure assay, which allowed the scientists to study the wound healing mechanism,. This showed the DRGN-1 peptide to be a strong candidate for development as an alternative to antibiotics. The next step in the research
will be pre-clinical development, where the scientists will perform further testing, including testing the stability and safety of the peptide.
The findings are published
in the Nature group journal Microbiomes and Biofilms
, with the research article titled "Komodo dragon-inspired synthetic peptide DRGN-1 promotes wound-healing of a mixed-biofilm infected wound."