Saving the endangered panda from extinction has become even more urgent now that the bear's blood could be used to create new drugs.
Scientists have discovered that pandas produce a powerful antibiotic in their blood stream that kills bacteria and fungi, the Telegraph writes.
The substance would help create new types of treatment for drug-resistant "superbugs" and other infections, researchers believe.
It’s thought the bear releases the antibiotic into its immune system to protect itself from infections in the wild, the news site said.
After analyzing the panda’s DNA, researchers discovered the compound, which they call cathelicidin-AM.
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Luckily, scientists don’t need to use actual panda blood, so they need not rely on the bear's notoriously unreliable breeding in order to obtain the new antibiotic. Instead, it will be synthesized in the lab.
Dr Xiuwen Yan, who was in charge of the research at the Life Sciences College of Nanjing Agricultural University in China, said about the cathelicidin-AM in panda blood:
“It showed potential antimicrobial activities against wide spectrum of microorganisms including bacteria and fungi, both standard and drug-resistant strains.
“Under the pressure of increasing microorganisms with drug resistance against conventional antibiotics, there is urgent need to develop new type of antimicrobial agents. Gene-encoded antimicrobial peptides play an important role in innate immunity against noxious microorganisms. They cause much less drug resistance of microbes than conventional antibiotics.”
Panda numbers have dwindled down to nearly 1,600, according to the Telegraph, since a majority of their bamboo forests in China and Southeast Asia have been destroyed.
Since it’s been discovered that the beautiful black and white bears produce a powerful substance that can help create new drugs, there is hope that the case to conserve the endangered creatures will be strengthened.